WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force has extended L3Harris Technologies’ contract to develop a software platform used to monitor space launches, satellites and debris in orbit, the company announced Feb. 3.

The company in 2018 won a sole-source $53 million contract to develop the Advanced Tracking and Launch Analysis System known as ATLAS to replace an aging system called SPADOC, short for Space Defense Operations Center. The new award is worth $49.7 million over two years. 

“L3Harris has been developing applications in a new architecture that will allow ATLAS to scale and handle the exponential growth of commercial constellations, increased debris, anti-satellite tests and adversarial threats,” the company said. The contract extension is for the integration of government equipment and to oversee the deployment of ATLAS at military command centers in Colorado and California.

Fielding the ATLAS system is an urgent need, Space Force officials said. The Air Force for years unsuccessfully sought to replace SPADOC. It launched the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS) in 2009 but the program performed poorly and was terminated in 2018. Last month the Space Systems Command announced it was shutting down the last remaining component of JMS. 

SPADOC was introduced in the 1990s to monitor launches and objects in orbit, and to support safety of flight operations.

ATLAS is part of a larger Space Force program known as Space C2 (command and control) that was started following the cancellation of JMS.  “The modernization of space domain awareness capabilities through ATLAS will enable the decommissioning of the SPADOC system, a legacy space management tool,” the Space Systems Command said in a news release.

Compared to SPADOC, the new system will be far more automated and expected to make it easier for Space Force operators to ingest data from sensors such as the Space Fence. Another capability anticipated from ATLAS is the automated processing and maintenance of the military’s space catalog of all known space objects.

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...