U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center Credit: Air Force

WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Space Force prepares to select launch providers later this year for the national security space launch program, a separate effort is underway to pick a contractor for the engineering and technical work that is done day to day in support of space launches.

ManTech is the current contractor for launch systems engineering and integration, or SE&I. The company in 2010 received a 10-year contract and the job is now being re-competed. The Space and Missile Systems Center’s launch enterprise is reviewing bids and will decide in the coming months whether to stay with the incumbent or change to a new contractor.

BAE Systems is competing for the contract with a team that includes LinQuest, Booz Allen Hamilton, a.i. solutions, Space Vector, Advanced Core Concepts, VETS and GreenDart. The incumbent ManTech also has submitted a proposal.

ManTech’s 2010 contract expired in March. To bridge the gap until the next contract, SMC awarded the company a six-month extension. The value of the contract was redacted from documents posted April 2 on SAM.gov. The projected value of the new 10-year contract also was redacted. According to industry sources, the SE&I contract could be worth as much as $500 million.

The SE&I contract supports the SMC launch enterprise in Los Angeles as well as the 30th Space Wing and the 45th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, respectively. According to SMC, the contractor will provide “critical support necessary to ensure successful on-time launches in a new era of national security space launch.”

The documents posted on April 2 that justify the sixth-month extension say that planning for the transition to a new contractor has been complicated. The national security space launch program has gone through significant change in recent years, and SMC across the board has been reorganized, all of which led the launch enterprise to reconsider the requirements for the SE&I contract.

“SMC has been developing requirements for this effort since November 2017,” said the justification document. The launch enterprise is in a “transitional phase and developing requirements has proven difficult.”

SMC is extending ManTech’s contract for six months to ensure continuity of service until a new contract is awarded. If a new vendor is selected, the contract extension requires ManTech to help train the workers from the incoming contractor.

The justification document says the incumbent contractor has “the best insight on the operations of the current SMC/LE SE&I program … A new contractor would not have the institutional knowledge related to NSSL missions.”

The director of SMC’s launch enterprise Col. Rob Bongiovi told SpaceNews in a statement that SE&I proposals are currently being evaluated.

The final request for proposals was issued in December 2019 and there was not enough time to make an award by March 2020, he said. “A six-month extension was issued to avoid break in service of SE&I support and allow sufficient time to award a follow-on SE&I-2 contract,” said Bongiovi.

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...