Space Development Agency chief Derek Tournear (R) addresses the audience at the Space Foundation’s 2024 Space Symposium. (Space Foundation)

WASHINGTON — The Space Development Agency (SDA) is planning to develop a separate ground system infrastructure for its experimental “FOO Fighter” fire control satellites — with the first of two planned requests for proposals set for June 18, Director Derek Tournear said today.

An pre-RFP announcement will be posted on the website today, he told a small group of reporters, designed to explain SDA’s planned solicitation for an integrator to develop and run the backbone ground system for the FOO Fighter — a nested acronym for Fire-Control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter — program, being developed by Boeing’s Millennium Space Systems. FOO Fighter is prototyping satellites capable of high-fidelity tracking adversary missiles and providing pinpoint coordinates to operators of missile defense interceptors.

The first solicitation for what SDA calls the “Advanced Fire Control Ground Integration” will seek contractors to “build out our developmental ops center — our DOC that’s in Redstone Arsenal down very close to where our SDA South ops center is located,” Tournear said. This includes providing “the ground entry points for downlinked data, “the cloud hosting for the computing,” as well as the “compute and IT resources” first for FOO Fighter and then for any future fire control demonstrations.

A second solicitation, for “Advanced Fire Control Mission Integration (AFCMI)” will follow “later this summer” for a contractor to serve as the mission integrator charged with the ground-based computer systems for fusing incoming data from FOO Fighter and future demos “so that they can be used in a format that can be passed off to the warfighter,” he said.

SDA originally had planned to solicit a sole contractor to handle ground systems for all of its demonstration satellites under its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) Futures Program (PFP). For example, this would have covered SDA’s T1DES (Tranche 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System) project to augment its Tranche 1 Transport Layer data relay satellites by demonstrating tactical satellite communication and Integrated Broadcast Service capabilities — as well as the planned follow-on called T2DES (pronounced toodes), for Transport Layer Tranche 2.

The agency issued a draft solicitation for the former PFP Ground Segment Integration effort on April 30, seeking industry input. That industry feedback, Tournear said, resulted in the decision to create a separate ground system integration plan for FOO Fighter and future fire control satellites.

“We heard back from industry. And as we started to piece the pieces together, it became apparent based on industry feedback, that essentially what we were trying to do with that solicitation was going to be extremely complicated, if not confusing, and probably difficult to execute as we had planned,” he said.

The “skill sets” needed are too different to expect one contractor to provide the “ground support for everything from a small CubeSat-type demo that could have extremely high classification requirements to something that was very open [or] a larger satellite such as FOO Fighter,” Tournear elaborated.

He stressed that SDA intends for the entire new fire control ground segment to be up and running before the FOO Fighter satellites are launched — now planned sometime in the first quarter of fiscal 2027.

“The contracts will start in the first week of December 2024 and then everything will be in place by the summer of 2026,” Tournear said.