Caption: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 is rolled to the pad readying for launch at Space Launch Complex-41 with Space and Missile Systems Center’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) satellite. Credit: ULA photo

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has delayed one of its biggest and most hotly contested space procurements of the year — a contract to support the Air Force’s two main launch ranges — to the second quarter of 2014.

The Launch and Test Range System Integrated Support Contract, or LISC, is a 10-year program that consolidates three contracts currently supporting the Air Force’s launch ranges at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. 

In spring 2012, as many as six industry teams were gearing up to compete for the contract, potentially valued at $2.5 billion to $3 billion. They expected the Air Force to award a contract in March 2013.

But the request for proposals for LISC did not get finalized until March 2013, at which time the contract award was targeted for the fourth quarter of the calendar year. Industry officials had been expecting an announcement sometime in October.

But in an article for the Air & Space Power Journal, a professional journal published by Air University Press and part of the Air Force Research Institute, Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Center (SMC), said plans now call for awarding the contract in the second quarter of 2014. The article did not specify whether she meant the calendar year or fiscal year, the latter of which begins Oct. 1.

She did not cite a reason for the delay, but said source selection began May 30.

“We are currently experiencing significant duplication of work because no single contractor is responsible for total system performance of the Eastern Range and Western Range,” she wrote. “This effort is designed to enhance mission effectiveness and generate cost efficiencies at both the Eastern Range and Western Range, which allows us to reinvest the savings in the ranges.”

The four likely LISC bidding teams are:

  • Consolidated Range Enterprise, whose members include Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions of Gaithersburg, Md.; InDyne Corp. of Reston, Va.; and URS Corp. of San Francisco.
  • InSpace21, whose members include PAE of Arlington, Va., and Honeywell Corp. of Morristown, N.J. This team formerly included CSC, which sold its applied technologies business to PAE this year.
  • Raytheon Technical Services of Reston, Va., which is leading a team that includes General Dynamics of Falls Church, Va.; ASRC Aerospace Corp. of Greenbelt, Md.; ARES Corp. of Burlingame, Calif.; Schafer Corp. of Arlington, Va.; and Primus Solutions of Greenbelt.
  • ITT Exelis Information Systems of McLean, Va., which is bidding with BAE Systems of Arlington, Va., and L-3 Communications of New York.

Currently, a team of Raytheon and PAE supports Cape Canaveral; InDyne supports Vandenberg; and Exelis provides sustainment at both sites.

On Sept. 13, the Pentagon announced a $29 million contract modification to InDyne for operations and maintenance services at Cape Canaveral. Work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2014.

Officials from all four teams referred questions to the Air Force.

SMC was unable to respond by press time to SpaceNews inquiries about the reasons for the apparent delay.

One possible culprit is budgetary uncertainty. At press time, Congress had yet to pass a defense spending bill for 2014, and ongoing sequestration budget cuts have complicated Air Force planning across the board. Budget pressures recently forced the Air Force to delay by one year the planned contract award for a next-generation space surveillance system known as the Space Fence, for example.

“Sequestration is now a four-letter word in my headquarters. I suspect it is in all of yours as well,” Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Commander, said in a speech here Sept. 17. “If we don’t get budget flexibility very soon, we won’t be able to sustain the operational capability in space and cyber.”

The Air Force first issued a “sources sought” notice for LISC in 2009, according to the Federal Business Opportunities site.

Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...