WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force intends to award Northrop Grumman a sole-source contract to develop two ground-based radar sites to track space objects. 

These would be the second and third sites of the Space Force’s planned network of sensors known as the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC).

Northrop Grumman in February 2022 won a $341 million contract to develop the first DARC site in the Indo-Pacific region. The second and third are expected to be located in Europe and in the continental United States. 

The Space Systems Command in a “special notice” published Aug. 7 said it “intends to release a sole source RFP [request for proposal] to Northrop Grumman” to complete fielding of the second and third DARC sites.

A sole-source RFP does not equate to a contract but would start the process of negotiating an agreement with the company. The government is allowed to issue sole-source contracts without a competitive bidding process in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract.

The Space Force estimates the contract to be awarded in late 2023 or early 2024.

DARC schedule

Northrop Grumman announced in May 2023 that its DARC proposal passed a critical design review. The first site is expected to be completed by 2025. 

The Space Force notice said it expects the second site to be ready by 2028 and the third by 2029.

“The DARC program is part of a larger effort of moving towards a resilient space enterprise in our nation’s space domain awareness capabilities able to deter aggression,” the Space Systems Command said. 

DARC’s primary focus will be tracking active satellites and debris in geosynchronous orbit.

The procurement of the second and third sites are on a shorter timeline due to urgent needs for space domain awareness, said Space Systems Command. 

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...