Air Force wants to tap into commercial satellite capacity

The Air Force released a request for information for Pathfinder 3, which is intended to provide the warfighter flexible access to commercial and military satellite capability.

As space has become more critically important while simultaneously shifting to a more contested spectrum, the Air Force is looking to improve commercial satellite communications procurements that will eventually lead to the ability for warfighters worldwide to more effectively access available satellite resources.  

The Air Force recently issued a request for information to directly support Pathfinder 3 to provide warfighters flexible access to commercial and military satellite communications capacity as well as provide the ability to roam between in-place satellite/hub and managed systems. The option will exist for Defense Department systems to access the previously allocated space segment resource to individual service sand include their ground hubs and network managers and/or direct request to Strategic Command for centrally managed satellite, teleport and DOD Information Network resources.      

The first Pathfinder demonstrated the business practice of purchasing commercial satellite communications with the procurement of two Ku-band transponders over Africa. Pathfinder 2 sought to address issues related to the limited coverage of Pathfinder 1, currently in the process of demonstrating a “pooled portable bandwidth,” through pre-launch transponders, the notice said.  Pathfinders 3, 4 and 5 will refine business development processes of previous programs.  Affordability and resiliency, the Air Force said it discovered from the first two Pathfinders, had to be improved.

The notice also identified two challenges for government as part of Pathfinder #3, which included the need for COMSATCOM service providers to agree to and support network roaming concept and modem control.  

The government said it is open to contractor suggestions that could streamline or improve the access process.

Responses are due by June 3, 2016.