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Commercial Providers Applaud PLEO Contracts from Space Systems Command

By Mark Holmes, Frank Wolfe, Rachel Jewett | July 26, 2023
      Via Satellite archive illustration

      Via Satellite archive illustration

      Under a Proliferated Low-Earth Orbit (PLEO) Satellite-Based Services program that may be worth $900 million, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) have awarded 16 companies five-year contracts to establish commercial communications for military use.

      The July 18 DISA contract awards came via SSC’s Commercial Satellite Communications (SATCOM) Office (CSCO), which received 25 bids.

      The companies, receiving the awards, which include a five-year option, are SpaceXCapella Space‘s Capella Federal, Inc.; BlackSky Technology Inc.’s BlackSky Geospatial Solutions, Inc.; SES DRS Global Enterprise Solutions, Inc.; EchoStar Corp.‘s Hughes Network Systems; Viasat Inc.‘s Inmarsat Government, Inc.; Amazon’s Kuiper Government Services (KGS) LLC; Intelsat‘s Intelsat General Communications LLC; OneWeb Technologies, Inc.ARINC, Inc.Artel, LLCPAR Technology Corp.‘s PAR Government; RiteNet Corp.; Satcom Direct, Inc.’s Satcom Direct Government, Inc. (SDG); Trace Systems Inc.; and UltiSat, Inc.

      SSC said in a July 24 statement that the multiple partner and award contract model is a first for government satcom procurement and promises to deliver capabilities faster and at a lower cost than traditional models. Areas within scope may include, but are not limited to, high-speed broadband, synthetic aperture radar imaging, space domain awareness, and alternative positioning, navigation and timing.

      “This is a transformational strategy that will allow government and industry to partner more quickly and more broadly to take advantage of the rapid innovation that’s happening in the commercial satcom sector,” Clare Hopper, chief of SSC’s CSCO, said in the July 24 SSC statement.

      Col. Richard Kniseley, senior materiel leader of the CSCO, said that the contracts represent the continuing “game-changing advances in commercial satcom.”

      After the award was announced, a number of the companies named on the contract shared further details about the managed services they will provide to the DoD.

      Hughes Network Systems said the award means the D0D, other federal agencies and international coalition partners can procure fully managed, low-latency LEO services from Hughes with capacity on two constellations: OneWeb and EchoStar Lyra.

      EchoStar Lyra is a constellation in development for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and ongoing market development that includes 5G non-terrestrial networks.

      Hughes also has a distribution agreement with OneWeb service provider, OneWeb Technologies, to deliver managed, wideband LEO services to the DoD. Those services are now available under the IDIQ and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule, Hughes said.

      “As government and defense agencies explore the power and potential of LEO services in delivering capabilities to the warfighter faster and at lower cost, we’re proud to offer not one, but two compelling solutions,” said Leslie Blaker-Glass, vice president of Hughes. “Our OneWeb offering and our next-generation EchoStar Lyra S-band IoT system position us to deliver customers in the DoD and federal government robust and resilient low-latency connectivity at a competitive price.”

      OneWeb Technologies said the deal solidifies its position as a trusted government solutions partner, and a leading provider of LEO satellite services. The company is one of only two VSAT data LEO satellite service providers currently offering live services.

      “This p-LEO opportunity underscores OneWeb Technologies’ comsatcom capabilities and recognizes the company’s exceptional technology offering for the U.S. government. Accurate, expeditious information is fundamental for U.S. government decision making, as well as for our friends and allies. OneWeb’s constellation helps get the right information to the right people, at the right time,” Sue Gordon, chairperson of the OneWeb Technologies proxy board and former U.S. principal deputy director of national intelligence, said in a statement.

      Capella Space said this award makes the company one of the first commercial Earth observation companies to work with this new government commercial satellite services procurement model, and the contract lets Capella give SSC and the Space Force global 24/7, all-weather imagery more quickly.

      “As the first American company to own and operate a commercial SAR constellation, we are excited to expand our collaboration with the U.S. government,” said Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space. “Through this award, we will be able to provide more timely, high-resolution SAR data to support U.S. Space Force missions through our rapidly growing constellation.”

      This story was first published by Defense Daily on July 26 and was updated on Aug. 22 with further information