WASHINGTON — The Air Force Research Laboratory is asking companies to submit ideas on how they would design and develop a spacecraft to monitor outer space beyond Earth’s orbit. 

AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate is planning an experiment called Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS). The satellite would operate beyond geosynchronous orbit, in the region near the moon.

The project is being managed by the Space Force’s Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC). Only members of the consortium can view the details of the posting and can compete for contracts. Submissions are due April 1.

“The CHPS program will deliver space domain awareness in a region that is one thousand times greater than our current area of responsibility,” said Michael Lopez, CHPS program manager. “AFRL is interested in hearing from companies that may have ideas that differ from ours, and could contribute to the satellite’s capabilities.”

AFRL wants to develop capabilities to detect, track and identify objects operating at lunar distances and beyond, a range of 385,000 kilometers. Most Space Force sensors are designed to detect and track satellites that are in geosynchronous orbit, at distances of 36,000 kilometers or closer.

CHPS will search for objects like debris, rocket bodies, and other previously untracked cislunar objects, as well as provide position updates on spacecraft currently operating near the moon or other cislunar regions that are challenging to observe from Earth.

Another objective in the CHPS project is to help the military gain experience operating hardware in the complicated gravitational environment between the Earth and the moon, and help mature technology required to communicate and navigate near the moon.

”Our goal is to create a satellite that will become critically important as the U.S. supports civil and commercial efforts in the cislunar domain,” said Lopez.

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...