The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit issued a solicitation for “tactically responsive” space system prototypes from the commercial sector amid growing concerns about threats to U.S. satellites.
DIU is partnering with the Space Force’s Space Safari acquisition program office on the initiative, which will culminate in a multi-phase technology demonstration it’s calling Victus Haze.
Space Safari, which is under Space Systems Command, was stood up in 2021 and is tasked with responding to the urgent needs of combatant commands including U.S. Space Command.
The Victus Haze project comes as Pentagon and intelligence community officials are sounding the alarm about threats to U.S. satellites and their support systems from adversaries’ counter-space weapons — such as anti-satellite missiles, directed energy systems, electronic warfare and cyber attacks — as well as other spacecraft and debris.
“The Department of Defense (DoD) must continuously improve its ability to respond quickly and dynamically to threats in space (adversarial or natural) or other on-orbit needs (i.e., servicing) necessary to execute force protection and sustainment operations during peacetime, contingencies, and conflict. DoD’s access to space vehicles capable of agile maneuvering and the ability to conduct rendezvous, proximity operations and docking (RPOD) with other spacecraft to perform assessment, assisted maneuver, or sustainment activities is integral to this responsiveness,” per the solicitation.
To aid the search for new solutions, the Silicon Valley-headquartered Defense Innovation Unit, through its commercial solutions opening contracting mechanism, is looking for providers that can build and operationally demonstrate prototypes on orbit.
“Space Safari is partnering with DIU on the VICTUS HAZE mission because of DIU’s long-standing connections to the commercial space industry. DIU provides program management for this prototype with Space Safari providing technical and mission leadership as DIU’s defense partner. If this prototype is successfully completed, Space Safari will manage and solicit future related actions,” according to the solicitation.
Space Safari aims to begin delivering more advanced tactically responsive space capabilities for the joint force by 2026, according to DIU.
For Victus Haze, the Pentagon is looking for industry to demonstrate the ability to deploy a space vehicle within 24 hours of tasking and have the system ready for operations in less than 48 hours after it reaches the intended orbit.
The project will include an initial 12-18 month “build” phase in which the launch vehicle, space vehicle and ground segment are ordered, fabricated, tested and readied for launch. That will be followed by “hot standy,” activation, alert, launch and on-orbit operation phases, according to the solicitation.
After the notice to launch is issued, the team in charge of executing the mission will only have 24 hours to have the satellite ready for launch into the designated orbit.
“Mission personnel (contractor and government) will have limited to no knowledge of the orbit parameters prior to executing the 24-hour launch directive. The vendor should be able to sustain the ability to maintain an alert status for up to 30 days,” the solicitation noted.
The on-orbit ops phase “will begin immediately after satellite separation, with the space vehicle intended to be mission-capable in under 48 hours and end with the safe disposal of the space vehicle,” it added.
The Pentagon would like the space vehicle to be designed to launch both horizontally and vertically and operate on orbit for 6-12 months, among other desired attributes.
Responses to the solicitation are due Sept. 7.