WASHINGTON — A startup named Defense Unicorns has won a $15 million contract to update IT systems and software applications used to support rocket launches at U.S. Space Force ranges.

The company, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, won a so-called Strategic Funding Increase, or STRATFI, agreement from SpaceWERX, the technology arm of the Space Force.

STRATFI contracts are awarded to companies that have won Small Business Innovation Research projects to help transition products from development to production and to help small businesses attract private investors.

Funding amounts for STRATFI contracts range from $3 million to $15 million per project. SpaceWERX last week announced STRATFI awards to Defense Unicorns and other firms. 

Defense Unicorns’ STRATFI agreement is over five years. 

The company last week announced it raised a $35 million Series A funding round led by Sapphire Ventures and Ansa Capital.

Transitioning legacy systems

Andrew Greene, co-founder of Defense Unicorns, said the company was formed three years ago by former developers from Department of Defense software factories. The. firm specializes in transitioning legacy military systems  that are typically disconnected from the internet to digital IT infrastructure. 

Software modernization is sorely needed at Space Force launch ranges at Cape Canaveral, Florida; and at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, Greene said. Applications used, for example, to monitor weather conditions and the status of launch vehicle hardware, reside in stovepipe legacy systems and are unique to each range. 

With the pace of commercial launches rapidly increasing, the U.S. Space Force needs to integrate and deploy new technology at speed, he said. 

The modernization of launch IT systems, Greene said, is a huge challenge due to outdated technology, diverse compute environments and the complexities of security and compliance standards.

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...