The U.S. Space Force was to release a final solicitation for the Space Force Range Contract (SFRC) by May 25, but the service now expects the RFP will come around June 5.

In January last year, the Pentagon Inspector General said in an audit that Space Force is facing an increased risk of launch problems at its eastern range at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., and the western range at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., as the service expects to more than double its launches from 49 in 2021 to 157 in 2027 (Defense Daily, Jan. 10, 2022).

“Historically, the eastern and western ranges have maintained large inventories of aging systems that required ever increasing investments to operate, maintain, and sustain,” Space Force said in a May 5 draft performance work statement (PWS) for SFRC. “Range architectures evolved incrementally with lengthy development cycles and little regard to extensibility or supportability resulting in many systems being obsolete upon delivery. Range operations processes that were adequate during times of infrequent national security missions are now unsustainable in the face of rapidly increasing demands for launch and Test and Evaluation (T&E) support.”

“The SFRC reflects a new model for range technical services adapted to the ongoing modernization of the eastern and western ranges and eventual transformation into efficient, high-capacity multi-user spaceports,” according to the draft PWS. “Under this contract services will only be performed if ordered under a fully executed Task Order (TO) with TO requirements adjusted annually or more frequently if required. The services provided at the beginning of this contract are expected to change over time as the ranges evolve.”

Space Force plans to award the SFRC contract on June 5 next year.

RGNext, a Raytheon Technologies [RTX] and General Dynamics [GD] joint venture based in Melbourne, Fla., is the holder of a Space Force Launch and Test Range System Integrated Support Contract (LISC). The latter, awarded in September 2014 and worth up to $2 billion, is to support launches at the eastern and western ranges.

Former Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond said in 2020 that he wanted Space Force to move to all autonomous launch operations by 2025 (Defense Daily, Dec. 17, 2020).

Raymond cited the all-autonomous launches of SpaceX rockets and the need to reduce space launch infrastructure and personnel to increase launch location flexibility, launch frequency, and reduce costs.

“Although the Space Force maintained range items and enabled successful launches, according to Space Force data, 74 of all 260 (28 percent) items at the eastern and western ranges did not have the spare parts needed to repair or replace some range item components if necessary,” last year’s Pentagon IG audit said. “This amount included 31 range items that did not have any spare parts for mission-critical range item components. The Space Force lacked spare parts for the 74 range items because many of the spares were obsolete.”

Of the 31 range items without space parts for mission-critical components, the Space Force upgraded four range items and secured funding for upgrades to another nine, while the service is awaiting funding for one range item upgrade, relying on redundant systems for four range items, and plans to divest 18 range items, the DoD audit said.