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Air Force to Discuss ‘Unusual and Compelling Urgency’ for New Missile-Warning Satellites


The SBIRS follow-on has been the subject of many studies and much analysis.

WASHINGTON —  reports: Defense and space industry executives were surprised Wednesday to see a U.S. Air Force “sources sought and request for information” in FedBizOpps on the next-generation missile-warning satellite constellation — known as the Space-Based Infrared System Follow-On.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center invited contractors to an industry day Nov. 21 and gave them a short window of less than 24 hours to register.

To many who have watched the SBIRS follow-on effort drag on for years, the suddenly convened industry day seemed odd. Industry sources said they were puzzled as to why the Air Force solicitation talks about an urgent need and then says a new system would not be deployed until 2029.

The Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Directorate has an “unusual and compelling urgency to constitute a new highly resilient space warfighting construct-based five geosynchronous and two polar next generation architecture, in order to counter emerging threats while operating in a contested environment,” said the solicitation.

An industry consultant who works with space companies said it was disappointing that the Air Force appears to be ready to move forward with a future SBIRS but is setting a 12-year timeline.

According to the RFI: “To accelerate against emerging threats, the Air Force intends to procure Next Gen Block 0 … in Fiscal Year 2029, with an initial launch capability in Fiscal Year 2025.” The Next Gen Block 1 would start in 2020 and continue for about 10 years.

The SBIRS follow-on has been the subject of many studies and much analysis. The Air Force in fact encourages respondents to take into account previous SBIRS follow-on analysis of alternatives dating back to 2014.

This is the third “sources sought request for information” for SBIRS follow-on in the last 18 months.

The cost of SBIRS

The current SBIRS High includes four geostationary satellites, two SBIRS hosted payloads on satellites in highly elliptical orbit, two replenishment satellites and sensors, and fixed and mobile ground stations. The program is on track to have both hosted payloads and four geostationary satellites on orbit by the end of 2017.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimated that total costs for the two payloads and four geo satellites, plus ground support, come to approximately $13.6 billion. An additional $2.15 billion has been appropriated through fiscal year 2017 for the two spare geo satellites, and $1.3 billion more has been requested in … (read more)


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