The Air Force has used a series of experiments to learn more about its missile warning capabilities, including the CHIRP hosted payload, pictured above, and the Wide Field of View Testbed, which the service recently delayed. Credit: SES

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has awarded the Utah State University Research Foundation a contract to continue to research, develop and build state-of-the-art space-based sensors, according to an Aug. 16 announcement from the Pentagon.

Utah State’s Space Dynamics Lab is the MDA’s dedicated university affiliated research center. The lab specializes in designing and developing sensors and has played a key role in the sensor technology aboard the Defense Department’s missile warning satellites. The lab’s work includes programs such as the current generation Space Based Infrared System satellites, the Near Field Infrared Experiment, known as NFIRE, and the Commercially Hosted Infrared Program, or CHIRP.

The Pentagon announcement said the sole-source contract is a so-called indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract and has a potential value of $99.4 million.

Contract awards to support actual sensor system projects would be awarded as task orders as the MDA sees fit, but the agency did not issue any task orders as part of the contract award. However, the head of the MDA, Navy Adm. James Syring, said during the Space and Missile Defense Symposium here the agency must have a space-based sensor layer in the 2020s.

“Under this contract, the contractor will perform research, development, engineering, state of-the-art and proof-of-concept spaced-based sensor systems, and advanced technology research and development,” the Defense Department announcement said.

The five-year contract runs through Aug. 16, 2021.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.