Space

US Space Force changes timeline for hiring a prototyping consortium manager

WASHINGTON — Initially anticipated in August 2020, the U.S. Space Force now expects to award a contract for management of its relatively new prototyping organization — the Space Enterprise Consortium — by the end of the year, according to the head of the Space and Missile Systems Center.

The Advanced Technology Institute received a $100 million contract in 2017 to manage the consortium through November 2022. Despite — or perhaps due to — the Space Enterprise Consortium’s early success in rapidly doling out prototyping contracts, the Space and Missile Systems Center wants to revamp the organization with a bigger budget.

“The effort has been so successful that we’ve got a follow-on effort coming on. We’re calling it SpEC Reloaded. SpEC Reloaded, we hope to award later this year,” SMC head Lt. Gen. John Thompson said during the Ascend virtual conference Nov. 18. “And that’ll be a 10-year period of performance with a $12 billion ceiling on that particular contract vehicle.”

SpEC has grown rapidly as one of the Air Force’s — and now the Space Force’s — primary mechanisms to bring in nontraditional vendors and facilitate rapid prototyping efforts. The organization allows Space Force organizations like the Space Rapid Capabilities Office or the intelligence community’s National Reconnaissance Office to quickly connect with vendors that want to build prototypes for national security space systems.

Since its inauspicious beginnings in 2017, the consortium has welcomed 430 members and awarded more than 80 contracts worth almost $900 million all together. Rapid prototyping efforts range from building a space vehicle with a Link 16 payload to a new navigation satellite that will inform future GPS designs.

Unlike traditional acquisition organizations, SpEC relies on the other transaction authority contract vehicle for its rapid prototyping awards.

OTAs allow “us to get on contract much faster than traditional approaches,” Thompson said. “In addition, the vehicle really lowers the bar for nontraditional contractors to become part of national security space efforts, makes it easier for them to get in the door. In fact, 350 of those 430 members of the consortium are really nontraditional contractors or academic organizations.”

SMC initially put out a request for information in August 2019, expressing its interest in re-competing the consortium with an increased focus on cybersecurity and a far larger ceiling for awards. Proposals for the actual solicitation were due in April 2020. According to that solicitation, the consortium manager award was expected to be issued in August, with the consortium issuing its first award in November. Thompson did not discuss why that timetable had been pushed back.

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