AFRL uses expedited acquisition process in latest spacecraft contract award

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate awarded an $8.4 million contract to Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc. to support the directorate’s Precise flight experiment projected for launch in 2024.

“The Precise flight experiment represents a new orbital regime for AFRL in Very Low Earth Orbit,” said Dr. Rachel Hock-Mysliwiec, Precise program manager. “This experiment builds on more than 50 years of AFRL investigation into the physics of the upper atmosphere.”

Hock-Mysliwiec elaborated that the experiment will study ionization processes in the region of ionized gas, between 90 and 600 kilometers altitude.

“The Precise spacecraft will use sensitive satellite instruments and radio waves to examine changes in the ionosphere resulting from different compositions of ion source gasses,” she said. “This understanding could be used in the future to mitigate natural ionospheric impacts to warfighter systems such as satellite communications and GPS.”

Tyvak will be providing AFRL a spacecraft capable of maneuvering between Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) for conducting sensor payload measurements. The contract award period is Nov. 15, 2021 – Nov. 1, 2024.

Precise will be AFRL’s first prototype experiment awarded under the Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Space Enterprise Consortium Other Transaction Agreement (SpEC-OTA).

In October, the Space Vehicles Directorate signed a memorandum of agreement with SSC to use the command’s established OTA that provides a framework for decentralized execution of prototype awards, explained Sheri Della Silva, AFRL contracting officer.

“Having this new agreement will permit us to move at an expedited pace, allowing our scientists and engineers to concentrate on matters inside the lab, rather than spending time working on contracting matters,” said Della Silva.

Col. Eric Felt, AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s director, echoed her remarks.

“We are very excited to have this decentralized capability that will accelerate prototype awards,” said Felt. “It offers AFRL significant advancement in our acquisition processes that will enable us to support the Space Force at a more agile and faster pace.”

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AFRL physicists, Ryan Davidson (near) and Bryce Halter, examine test data from the main Precise satellite sensor, inside the Insitu Instrument Lab at AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. (Courtesy photo)