WASHINGTON — The Air Force announced on Thursday that it awarded Engility Corp. — now owned by SAIC — a $655 million contract for satellite ground systems’ engineering, development, integration and sustainment. The customer for this work is the Space and Missile Systems Center Advanced Systems and Development Directorate, Ground Systems and Space Operations Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The decision comes just two weeks after SAIC, based in Reston, Virginia, completed a $2.5 billion acquisition of Engility, which greatly expanded the company’s space services portfolio. Both SAIC and Engility had submitted separate bids for the program known as EDIS (engineering, development, integration and sustainment) before the merger was announced in September. Lockheed Martin has been the prime contractor for EDIS and its contract expires in spring 2019. Also in contention for the EDIS award was Herndon, Virginia-based Peraton.

Under this systems engineering effort, the Air Force wants to update satellite ground systems and transform them into “enterprise architectures” that can operate multiple satellites without having to design a new ground segment. It is part of a long-term plan by the Air Force to transition to what it calls enterprise ground services.

The work will be performed at Kirtland Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2026.

In the EDIS program, the goal is to create an open systems environment that can operate any vendor or government-developed satellite, for example.

SAIC would serve as an integrator of software provided by any number of suppliers that would plug into the space operations center at the Advanced Systems and Development Directorate at Kirtland.

The Air Force over the next decade wants to transition to an enterprise ground systems setup capable of supporting all the different space missions that currently run on dedicated systems. The EDIS program would help the Air Force test and demonstrate the concept of enterprise ground services.

In the EDIS solicitation, the Air Force said the winning contractor would help develop an enterprise ground service and possibly “expand the service for use by R&D [research and development] community and potentially the operational community.” Air Force officials have said an enterprise ground system would make it faster and less expensive to test experimental satellites at a time when the military faces new threats in space and needs to develop technologies at a faster pace than under traditional procurement programs.

The EDIS contract is structured into “task orders.” The first one will be to maintain the existing ground systems at Kirtland and Shriever. Task orders will be issued periodically over the seven-year contract period as the Air Force shifts to an enterprise ground system and requires new satellites to be integrated.

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...