WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force intends to buy a duplicate of the Space Based Surveillance System (SBSS) satellite but may put the contract out for bid rather than make a sole source award to Boeing, according to a July 31 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The first SBSS pathfinder satellite, built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., to detect and track objects in geosynchronous orbit, is finally ready to launch this year. But its development was plagued by technical, managerial and budgetary problems that have caused the program to overshoot its original $350 million estimate by nearly $500 million.

In the posting, the Air Force said it wants to have a clone of the first SBSS satellite under contract by mid-2010 and built in time for a late 2014 launch. The new satellite would operate with the existing SBSS ground infrastructure.

Whether the Air Force holds a competition for the SBSS clone or awards a sole-source contract to Boeing will depend on the response it receives to the July 31 posting. Companies potentially interested in bidding on the SBSS clone have until Sept. 1 to respond.