COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Citing overwhelming success at the first-ever Air Force Pitch Day in March, the service announced a second opportunity for companies to get on contract in minutes – but this time, it’s for space technology.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said April 9 at the 35

th annual Space Symposium here the upcoming Pitch Day for space will be held this fall in Los Angeles

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

“We’ll bring the Air Force together with entrepreneurs and universities and start ups who want to help drive pathbreaking capabilities to space at the speed of relevance,” she said during her keynote speech Tuesday.

During the inaugural Pitch Day last month in New York City, 51 companies were awarded $8 million worth of contracts, which the Air Force paid instantly using a government credit card, Wilson said.

“The average time to contract … was 15 minutes,” she noted. “The record was three minutes … to contract with the Air Force.”

The Air Force wants to change the way it awards SBIR contracts, Will Roper, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told reporters Wednesday.

“The fact that SBIR funding was spent more like laboratory money is wrong thinking to me,” he said. “SBIR money is about getting new companies connected to programs; it’s about growing the industry base.”

The service will be looking for companies that are “pushing the envelope on launch,” he noted. Small satellite developers and companies focused on machine-learning and artificial intelligence are also sought.

“As we put more and more satellites up, we’re going to have a data problem,” he noted.

The energy area is another where the Air Force wants to see innovative solutions, Roper said.

“We’ve been incrementally improving on the efficiency of solar panels, [and] we’ve gotten really good,” he said.  “But what’s the next thing?”

Maybe there’s a company out there that’s developing the power source for Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, he mused. “If they do, we’ll definitely put them on contract.”

Unlike the inaugural Pitch Day, interested participants for the space-centric event must have submitted proposals to the Pentagon’s Feb. 6 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 19.2 broad area announcement, and have been awarded SBIR Phase 1 contracts, SpaceNews reported Thursday. Those qualified will have the chance to compete for up to $40 million in contract awards.