Illustration of a SBIRS missile-warning satellite. Credit: Lockheed Martin

WASHINGTON — Ball Aerospace, Parsons, General Dynamics, and Omni Federal each won $9.7 million contracts from the U.S. Space Force to develop competing designs of next-generation ground systems. 

The contracts, announced Nov. 9, are for a project known as FORGE C2, short for Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution Command and Control. The Space Force wants to modernize the ground systems that control spacecraft and process data from existing and future geostationary and polar orbit satellites — including the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) and Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) constellations.

The Space Systems Command started the FORGE program in 2019 with the goal of creating an open architecture for missile-warning ground systems to replace the current proprietary ground stations developed and operated by SBIRS and Next-Gen OPIR prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

“The FORGE C2 prototype will lay the groundwork for a government-owned, cyber secure modular open systems approach for missile warning satellite command and control, including mission management, ground control, telemetry, tracking and commanding,” said the Nov. 9 announcement.

Bids selected by SpEC consortium

The four vendors were competitively selected by the Space Enterprise Consortium, known as SpEC, an organization created to attract startups and commercial companies to compete for defense programs. 

“The use of the SpEC other transaction authority provided the Space Systems Command access to innovative technology that isn’t otherwise available with traditional contracting methods,” said the consortium’s director Mike Malinowski.

FORGE C2 is one piece of a broader $2.8 billion program to modernize missile-warning ground systems. In a separate project, companies like Raytheon and SciTec are working on software to process, analyze and disseminate data collected by missile-warning satellites.  

The four vendors selected for the FORGE C2 project have 16 months to develop prototypes. One or more may be chosen for the next phase of the program, which will focus on the Next-Gen OPIR polar satellites.

Two of the four, Parsons and General Dynamics, recently won contracts for other Space Force ground systems. Parsons earlier this year was selected to develop a ground system for missile-warning satellites in medium Earth orbit. General Dynamics Mission Systems last year got a contract to operate the ground systems of DoD’s future low Earth orbit constellation being acquired by the Space Development Agency.

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...