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Satellite and Space Mission Design




ITAR: The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop and apply a capability for rapid design of space missions / satellites leveraging new and evolving space services, commodity components, and emerging technologies.

DESCRIPTION:  In the last several years, new developments in space access, small satellites and components, and software and communications, combined with the investment of risk capital and other funding, have produced new space services capabilities.  These new services and the infrastructure enabling them have, in turn, created a fast-changing environment for further development. Mission planning and design now takes place in this dynamic context.  The Air Force continues to deliver traditional capabilities but could do so more effectively and by wholly different approaches through exploiting and repurposing rapidly emerging space systems, services, components, and supporting infrastructure.

In previous generations, Air Force missions have been planned over extended time periods, assuming the availability of certain Government assets, products, and supporting services, with the Government funding new developments that were required.  Techniques for analyzing missions and performing trades were created and honed with each new application.  Now, mission planners are presented with a fast-changing array of commercial services and unconventional mixes of commercially driven and Government-driven capabilities including new technology and software-defined systems, commodity spacecraft components, small satellite buses, and launch and ground systems services. The environment is dynamic, choices are greater, and mission development, including rapid progression from concept to systems requirements to preliminary design, should adapt as well.

Given a set of needs and goals in a broad space-related area, the Air Force will benefit from a rapid capability to interpret needs and opportunities, structure candidate mission architectures, assess available and emerging services and technologies that may be relevant to solutions, and proceed systematically through trades to arrive at multiple feasible approaches for satellite and system designs.  These in turn can be considered with respect to cost, schedule, and risk, and the likelihood and degree of meeting goals.  In most cases, the mission and satellite development capability will rapidly access and combine insight from multiple sources and companies.

Overlaps in different space-related domains have blurred the lines of simpler, focused mission development.  Communications now involves geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), medium earth orbit (MEO), and low earth orbit (LEO) over multiple wavelengths, with different antenna types and more use of relays.  Satellites have greater on-board processing, increased potential for coordinated operation, more options for deployed subsystems and in-space changes.  Launch services are lower cost, more frequent and agile, with emerging options for orbit insertions and transfers.  Payloads are more programmable, adaptable and compact.  In addition, information management for space systems increasingly leverages software-defined systems and the cloud, from data management to scheduling and operations.

Mission and satellite design should keep pace with and help manage the complexity brought by these fast-evolving developments.  It is envisioned this will involve model-based design processes, techniques and methodologies to develop conceptual designs that include expedient leveraging of the best new commercially-available and open source tools.  A robust but flexible approach accessing knowledge across organizations will take appropriate advantage of software-driven automation and optimization.

PHASE I: Determine, insofar as possible, the scientific, technical, and commercial feasibility of the concept. Include a plan to demonstrate a rapid capability to interpret needs and opportunities, structure candidate mission architectures, assess available and emerging services and technologies potentially relevant to solutions.  The firm would then proceed systematically through trades to arrive at multiple feasible approaches for satellite and system designs to be considered in terms of cost, schedule, risk, and the ability to fully meet goals. 

PHASE II: Develop and enhance the rapid space mission and satellite design capability, and demonstrate the utility in several Air Force need areas for missions that are at different stages of conceptual maturity, including where conceptual development has not yet begun.  Provide intermediate products to be assessed by planning teams, summarizing information capturing sensitivity of mission-level outcomes, including schedule, cost and risk, to key architecture and implementation decisions. Carry at least one mission through to system and satellite design and development, working with other performers to rapidly assess mission-level impacts of spacecraft, payload, operations, data processing, and other elements. 

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The contractor will pursue commercialization of the technologies developed in Phase II for potential Government and commercial applications. Government applications include rapid concept development and maturation for emerging military space missions. There are potential commercial applications to space system design, and evaluation and assessment of new business ventures.


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  3. Malaek, Seyed. (2018). A Generic Method for Sizing Satellites Conceptual Design and Rapid Sizing Based on “Design for Performance” Strategy. IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine ;
  4. Jones, Melissa & Chase, James. (2008). Conceptual Design Methods and the Application of a Tradespace Modeling Tool for Deep Space Missions. IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings. 1 – 15
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