SDA will release a fresh request for constellation ground segment

constellation ground segment

SDA puts forth proposals

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In early 2022, the Space Development Agency will solicit proposals for the ground segment of its low-Earth orbit network.

SDA released a draught request for bids (RFP) for Tranche 1 ground operations and integration last week (O&I). The Transport Layer Tranche 1 contract covers the integration of ground stations and the operation of a network of 144 satellites. The contractor would construct up network operations centers in government-owned buildings, as well as run and maintain them.

“We need a strong industry partner to assist us to bring all of the parts together and offer the capability to the warfighter,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said. For the ground systems contract, only one vendor will be chosen. The deadline for comments on the draught RFP is December 1.

What will the Agency do?

The agency intends to select manufacturers to deliver 126 communications satellites for the Transport Layer Tranche 1 before issuing a full O&I request. SDA is purchasing a further 18 satellites for diverse experimental payloads under a separate contract.

Tournear said last week at an America’s Future Series virtual conference that the timeframe for selecting satellite manufacturers and releasing the ground systems RFP is being scheduled. This is purposefully done to avoid conflicts of interest.

“We intend to release the final RFP [for ground systems incorporation] at the earliest as Transport Layer Tranche 1 [satellites] awards are prepared,” Tournear stated. Vendors should not be “waiting to pick which one to bid on,” according to the agency. “Depending on when we make the Tranche 1 awards,” Tournear said, the final RFP for ground systems integration might be out by January or February.

The conflict of interest concern would apply to satellite makers who are also ground systems integrators, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, L3Harris, and Raytheon. This will make it easier for them to compete for both the space and ground parts.

Concerns about the future

The government is concerned about future potential OCI concerns between the prime contractor for the T1 Operations & Integration contract and the prime contractor for any T1 space vehicle development contract at present time. According to the draught RFP, this includes those for T1 Transport Layer (T1TL).

According to SDA, the agency and vendors would have to talk about how to avoid a conflict of interest. “If the offeror believes that an OCI exists or may exist at the time of award, the offer or must submit an OCI mitigation plan.”

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