Defense Innovation Unit seeks commercial options to deploy satellites in deep space

The Department of Defense is seeking “receptive access” to the cislunar space

WASHINGTON – The Defense Innovation Unit is seeking commercial service proposals to deploy and operate payloads in outer space beyond Earth orbit, an area known as cislunar space.

DIU, a Department of Defense agency created to bring commercially developed technology to military programs, is seeking “responsive access” to the vast region of space that begins at Earth’s geosynchronous orbit and extends to the Earth-Earth Lagrange point. Moon on the other side of the moon.

Outer space beyond GEO “will experience a rapid influx of activity from domestic, international and commercial sources in this decade,” DIU said in a statement. December 7 solicitation. “As the United States prepares to return to the moon, the need for responsive access to this region is absolutely necessary.”

The Department of Defense is interested in “commercial solutions to implement responsive access to xGEO and demonstrate the timely and accurate delivery of a spacecraft to a predetermined orbit in xGEO.”

The new IUD project on the cislunar space comes from the hand of the Air Force Research Laboratory $72 million contract award for an experimental spacecraft to monitor the xGEO region.

United States Military leaders have warned that increased activity in the cislunar space could turn this region into a disputed domain as countries seek access to lunar resources and stake areas of jurisdiction. Current sensors used by the military to gain insight into space domain were designed to track satellites in Earth orbits, at distances of 22,000 miles or less, and not for cislunar space which extends 385,000 kilometers and has different orbital trajectories.

DIU said companies bidding on this project can expect many technical challenges. “Communications infrastructure is sparse, the radiation environment is harsh, and the gravity of the moon and sun have greater effects on station maintenance and maneuvering,” the request said.

Proposals must be submitted by December 21.

Vendors are requested to propose satellite concepts that can operate a set of payloads or instruments at one or more of the five Earth-Moon Lagrange points and lunar orbits. DIU wants commercial technologies that can be prototyped within 12-18 months of contract award.

“Delivery methods may include a combination of ground launch and multi-orbit logistics,” DIU said.

The satellites can range from cubesats to small ESPA-class satellites, and must have at least one or more payloads for visible and infrared imaging, onboard image processing, high-impulse propulsion, autonomy, space radiation monitoring, and communications.

The Department of Defense also wants to explore integrating commercial and government payloads on the same spacecraft.

Upon receipt of proposals, DIU may recommend that companies offering complementary technologies work together, although vendors may propose their own equipment arrangements.

In about three months, DIU expects to select the companies that will receive Other transaction agreement (OTA) contracts to system prototypes. The agency has the option of awarding follow-up production contracts “without the use of competitive procedures.”

The federal government uses OTA contracts primarily for research and development projects. These contracts differ from traditional procurement agreements in that they are not subject to many of the regulations and requirements that apply to traditional contracts. OTAs are frequently used for projects that require collaboration between the government and non-traditional defense contractors.

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