Two reusable rocket boosters land after the successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Arabsat 6A on April 12, 2019, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Two reusable rocket boosters land after the successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Arabsat 6A on April 12, 2019, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. U.S. Air Force / James Rainier

US Space Force Lists 20 Tough Problems for 1st Pitch Day

The military’s newest branch invites industry to bring solutions on March 4. Officials want to move quickly if they see something they like.

As the Space Force begins to stand up operations, the newest military branch wants to get in on the latest wave of acquisition options to match its space-age mission.

Space Force officially became the sixth branch of the military in December with the signing of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. As the newly minted branch gets up and running, the 45th Space Wing, based out of Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Florida, is holding a pitch day on March 4 to hear about “innovative solutions” to several problem areas around installation support and space operations.

For the pitch day, Space Force is leaning on its Commercial Solutions Opening, or CSO, authority, which allows certain government agencies—such as the Defense Department—to move quickly on acquisitions involving innovative ideas, especially those from nontraditional vendors that could use government funding to move from idea to prototype to production. The CSO contracting method uses iterative funding to move a project through four phases of development—the same structure used for Other Transaction Authority, or OTA, contracts.

“The Space Force intends to obtain ‘innovative’ solutions or potential new capabilities that fulfill requirements, close capability gaps or provide potential technology advancements,” according to a notice posted to the Contracting Opportunities website. Per the statutes establishing CSO authority, “‘Innovative’ is defined as any technology, process or method that is new as of the date of submission of a proposal. It also includes any new application of an existing technology, process or method,” the notice states.

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While the CSO pitch day will be a first for the new Space Force, its parent branch, the Air Force, has experience with both, having successfully pulled off quick-pitch events that resulted in first-time defense contractors leaving with cash in-hand, as well as partnering with the General Services Administration for a CSO pilot for an innovative DevOps platform.

The March 4 pitch day notice offers a list of specific areas the branch wants to hear pitches for, as well as a general call for any interesting ideas—“the unknown-unknown.”

The space operations support side of the pitch day will focus on “weather, business systems and information technology that facilitate spacelift mission success.” The branch will focus on nine problem areas during the pitch day:

  • A capability to feed multiple audio/video fields to the government desktop with the appropriate protections for proprietary and sensitive information.
  • Need correlated data interface/consistent, accurate, timely and “user filterable” weather information that is collected from multiple sources fed into one monitor.
  • Need mechanism for collecting and providing different wind profiles—speeds, temperatures, sheering effects, etc.—for altitude up to 80,000 feet into an instantaneous or near real time and continuous data flow for launch trajectories.
  • Ability to integrate raw data from multiple other data centers—local weather radars like Melbourne, Orlando, etc.—into 45th Weather Squadron display to support forecasting and minimize radar “blind spots.”
  • Need artificial intelligence or machine learning that could provide a high resolution modeling process for decision making. 
  • Need AI or ML to provide the ability for various networks to self-monitor health and status across the 45th Space Wing—i.e., loss of power—to alert and identify any abnormalities, or failure, as well as auto-generate work ticket to possibly identify issue and the repair needed for systems across the wing.
  • Need a more reliable, timely, accurate and customizable tool to share real time data on government non-classified internet protocol router network, or NIPRNet, without significant time delays or “restarts” needed.
  • Ability to provide weather alerts across 45th Space Wing computer and closed circuit monitors that is similar to current broadcast stations weather alerts, with auditory warnings and information banners displayed across monitors.
  • Provide 45th Space Wing lightning warnings for cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud lightning data to individually and personally owned cell phones based on a user’s GPS location.

For installation support, Space Force is focused on what might seem like more mundane issues, but are just as important to ensuring readiness and the success of operations. On the installation side, problem areas include “quality control, human resources, communications, civil engineering, transportation, environmental, business systems and information technology.” 

The branch offered 11 problem sets for consideration, touching on tangible needs like daycare staff scheduling, preventative maintenance, air conditioning, invoice and accounting automation, tracking lost hikers on Ascension Island and creating interactive exhibits for the Air Force Space and Missile Museum and the Sands Space History Center, among others.

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