Amid budget uncertainty and a delayed contract award, the U.S. Air Force will ask the two companies vying to build the next-generation Space Fence to demonstrate how their competing space-object tracking system concepts would handle a range of operational scenarios. 

In a notice dated Sept. 16, the Air Force said it anticipates awarding up to two firm-fixed-price contracts lasting 5.5 months for the studies. 

Those contracts would go to Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training of Moorestown, N.J., to Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., or to both. The companies developed competing Space Fence prototypes and were awaiting selection of a winner to build the full-scale system when the Air Force announced in August that it would delay the final contract award until next March.

The latest notice says the Air Force intends to award one or two interim contracts for demonstrations of how the Space Fence would handle various space events and focus surveillance on different orbits,  such as medium-altitude, highly elliptical and geosynchronous orbit. The contractors also will be asked to show how a new Space Fence might build up its catalog of items.

The Air Force is expected to release a request for proposals for the studies around Oct. 7, the notice said.