The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has released a request for information (RFI) and industry day announcement related to a future program to build a new deep space radar system that could be worth nearly $1 billion over the next five years.

The Deep Space Advanced Radar Concept (DARC) will select from the most promising technologies to detect, track and maintain custody of objects in deep space orbit to build a new augmented sensor that supports the U.S. military’s Space Surveillance Network in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), and build three new radar sites around the world, according to fiscal year 2021 budget justification documents.

SMC, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, released the RFI for DARC Feb. 19 via the Pentagon’s contracting website, and is requesting responses from interested parties by March 9. Industry Day discussions would take place March 16-17 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

According to the Space Force’s FY ’21 research, development, test and evaluation budget justification book, the service plans to build and test prototypes and conduct operational demonstrations for DARC at the beginning of the new fiscal year, with a request for proposals expected in the mid-FY ’21.  Source selection would take place by the third quarter of FY ’21 and contract award by the end of the fiscal year, and the Space Force is targeting Initial Operating Capability in FY ’25, when the first site would be complete.

The budget book sets aside $33.5 million in FY ’21 RDT&E funds for DARC, with a steady year-over-year increase: $141.2 million in FY ’22, $256.6 million in FY ’23, $295.3 million in FY ’24 and $200.4 million in FY ’25, totaling about $927 million over the five-year Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) timeline.

DARC was selected as a Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) activity in May 2019, and the Air Force used Section 804 authorities to fund technology maturation and prototype demonstrations starting in fiscal year 2017. The findings of those demonstrations will help inform the new Space Force’s decision on how to move forward with a new program of record for the DARC effort.

“The MTA activity will develop, test, and deliver three radar sites located strategically around the world to provide a global Deep Space Radar Capability to support Space Situational Awareness (SSA),” the budget justification documents said. “The system will be responsive to regularly scheduled and un-scheduled tasks to locate, identify, characterize deep space objects and report the results to the SSN and Battle Management Command and Control locations.”

Should the Space Force move ahead with a program of record for DARC, the three sites would be built between fiscal years 2023 and 2025. It would be a full and open competition targeting both industry and university-affiliated research centers.