HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Army Research Laboratory is exiting a partnership with the Air Force to develop an experimental missile warning satellite. The project has been underway for five years and work continues in preparation for a 2020 launch.

The overhead staring satellite — known as the Wide Field Of View (WFOV) testbed — will be used to research technologies in support of the next-generation Overhead Persistent Infrared constellation that is now in development.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center teamed with the Army Research Laboratory to acquire the payload, called Wide-Area Six-Degree Payload (WASP) from L3Harris. SMC has been working to integrate the payload with a satellite bus acquired from Millennium Space Systems.

The five-year arrangement between SMC and ARL was set up so the Air Force could use the Army’s broad area announcement (BAA) contracting vehicle. “This partnership has been a success, but it is our understanding that ARL will not be renewing or extending the period of the current BAA,” an SMC spokesperson told SpaceNews in a statement.

“In order to maintain uninterrupted engineering services, SMC has issued a solicitation to ensure the completion of remaining integrated system testing, engineering work, and on-orbit experimentation,” said the spokesperson. The solicitation is for payload calibration and troubleshooting, on-orbit operations planning, and on-orbit anomaly resolution and assistance. All of this work was originally scoped within the Army Research Lab’s BAA.

Mating the WASP payload with the Wide Field of View testbed has been the central challenge in this program. Once completed, the satellite will be deployed in geosynchronous Earth orbit. It would serve as a research platform to inform the next generation OPIR program. “Information learned from WFOV will be used to manage the technical trade space and risk reduction for the next generation OPIR satellites,” the SMC spokesperson said. Specific technologies that are being targeted include ground algorithms for processing the large volume of data expected to come from future sensors.  “While WFOV is not currently planned to be a part of the OPIR operational baseline architecture, residual operational capability will be evaluated based on performance.”

The spacecraft from Millennium Space Systems, a company acquired by Boeing last year, is the Aquila II bus. “There is no impact to Millennium due to the expiration of the existing BAA, or the issuance of this new solicitation,” the spokesperson said. The payload contractor, L3 Harris, also remains involved in the program performing the payload engineering and integration services. “Any contractor who believes they can meet the requirements will be able to reply to the new solicitation.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...