SpaceWERX, the technology arm of the U.S. Space Force, is looking to award a new round of Small Business Innovation Research contracts worth up to $1.9 million each for IT infrastructure upgrades at the Eastern and Western launch ranges, reports the website SpaceNews.
SpaceWERX officials recently said launch ranges are in dire need of IT upgrades and are seeking proposals from the private sector by February 7. The project is called "Digital Spaceport of the Future."
Maj. Jareth Lamb, deputy director of SpaceWERX, said during a briefing that the contracts will be “direct to Phase 2” SBIR/STTR agreements. These are Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer deals that require collaboration between small businesses and non-profit research institutions, reports SpaceNews.
Direct to Phase 2 means the selected companies will bypass the typical Phase I feasibility study and jump straight into developing and deploying solutions.
Maj. Jason Lowery, deputy director of technology and innovation at the Space Systems Command’s Assured Access to Space office, said the proposals more likely to be selected are those that offer ready technologies that can be put into use within 18 months. “While we appreciate your cutting-edge ideas, our bias is going to be towards proposals that promise tangible outcomes, so please keep that in mind,” Lowery told participants on a SpaceWERX webinar.
He said current IT systems are relics of a bygone era when national security launches were few and far between. Today, there is a surge in commercial activity, with SpaceX alone launching nearly 100 missions in 2023 and new rockets expected to ramp up in the next few years. The IT infrastructure simply can’t keep up, Lowery said.
Although the Space Force has ample funding for launch services and payloads, the Assured Access to Space Office struggles with inadequate IT budgets, said Lowery.
“So we have much to gain from collaborations like this with SpaceWERX,” he added. “We’re looking forward to working with small businesses to see what you all can bring to the table, and we hope this can be the first of several challenges to come over the next several years.”