Artist’s concept of the NTS-1, NTS-2 and NTS-3 satellites. NTS-3, right, is the U.S. military’s first Navigation Technology Satellite in 40 years. Credit: Lt. Jacob Lutz, AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center on March 18 released a solicitation for bids for a 10-year contract to manage the Space Enterprise Consortium. Proposals are due April 20.

The consortium manager will oversee up to $12 billion worth of projects over the next decade.

The Space Enterprise Consortium, known as SpEC, was created in 2017 and has since become a central player in SMC’s efforts to bridge the cultural gap between military buyers and commercial space startups and small businesses.

Using a nontraditional contracting process known as Other Transaction Authorities, or OTA, the SpEC solicits bids from member companies that include a mix of incumbent military contractors and new entrants from the commercial sector. The consortium has grown rapidly to about 350 members.

“This new 10-year, $12B OTA demonstrates SMC’s long-term commitment as well as their expectations regarding the scale of SpEC efforts going forward,” the consortium’s executive director Brian Delamater wrote in a March 19 email to SpEC members.

The consortium manages the development of pre-production prototypes of space systems, including satellites, payloads and ground systems. To date more than 50 prototype projects have been awarded by the SpEC.

The U.S. Air Force in November 2017 selected Charleston, South Carolina-based Advanced Technology International to manage the consortium. The company was awarded a five-year agreement to oversee up to $100 million worth of projects. Because of the growth in the demand for space technology prototyping, SMC decided to re-compete the contract, and expand its size and scope.

The March 18 solicitation says the consortium manager will be selected in August 2020, the first prototype solicitation will be released in September 2020 and the first prototype contract will be awarded in November 2020.

According to the solicitation, the SpEC OTA objectives are to:

  • Minimize barriers to entry for small businesses and nontraditional vendors to work with the U.S. government.
  • Identify and realize teaming opportunities to promote integrated research and prototyping efficiencies.
  • Improve the timeline from solicitation to award for DoD prototypes.
  • Reduce the cost and improve the capability of space-related prototypes.
  • Enhance the cybersecurity risk posture of the consortium members.

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...