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Space Based Infrared System

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The SBIRS(1) program is intended to combine the activities of the existing development programs considered in the study into a single, integrated program to most effectively meet the military's infrared surveillance requirements well into the next century. The plan is for the SBIRS program to be a potential 10-year Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) type effort. It will be a two-phased program with the first phase to perform space and ground system architecture trades and to develop candidate solutions, and the second phase to mature the chosen solution and deploy and test an initial constellation and ground system.

The Air Force is acquiring the Space-based Infrared System (SBIRS) to replace the current Defense Support Program and related systems, including consolidation of DSP ground processing within the CONUS. The DSP consolidation effort will be accomplished under the auspices of the SBIRS acquisition planned for completion by FY 1999. This new effort is for a potential 11 year SBIRS-High program. Although draws on previous efforts to develop a follow-on to Defense Support Program (DSP) (i.e., Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS), Alert, Locate, and Report Missiles (ALARM)), the SBIRS acquisition is not a direct continuation of these programs. The scope of the envisioned effort is considerably broader than the previous work.

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SBIRS operational requirements, include four mission areas of missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace characterization. The SBIRS-High program will accomplish the objectives identified in the SBIR Architecture Study completed in September 1994. Key parameters were reviewed by the Air Force Requirements Oversight Council (AFROC) in late 1994. The SBIR Capstone Requirements Document (CRD), dated 16 December 1994, was validated by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) on 12 January 1995. Subsequently, the JROC approved changes to the CRD regarding Survivability and Data Availability. The SBIRS Technical Requirements Document (TRD) (20 January 1995 version) was approved for release in Draft form on 24 January 1995, and the Final TRD was released with the SBIRS Request For Proposal (RFP). Other relevant requirements are detailed in the Draft SBIRS Operational Requirements Document (ORD), the 2 December 1994 version of the Draft ALERT ORD, and the Final version of the DSP ORD. Performance parameters proposed for the System Operational Requirements Document (ORD) include associated top-level operations rationale associated with many of the specific requirements. The System ORD will become the operative requirements document for Pre-EMD.

Several issues predominated the path to a validated SBIRS ORD. They included survivability, data availability, technical intelligence, and Block 1 SBIRS High Component performance.

Survivability was one of the major issues of contention throughout Pre-EMD. The vocal advocate for Cold War-level performance was USSTRATCOM. Initially, its representatives were tenaciously tied to the traditional idea of hardening fixed ground sites against nuclear effects. This caused affordability and schedule problems, particularly with regard to military construction funding. USSTRATCOM became somewhat more willing to discuss alternatives to fixed site survivability, such as through distribution of assets, when trade study results became available showing the high costs of the advocated survivability solutions and the impact on affordability constraints.

The major issue of contention with the Army was assured data availability. From the beginning of the SBIRS Requirements Generation Process, the Army advocated direct downlink to theater (DDL). While the USAF recognized DDL as one of the possible solutions to the operational requirement of assured data availability, the Army identified it as the requirement itself. The SBIRS Program claimed that government selection of a solution was not warranted since it was the responsibility of the contractors to complete the cost/performance trades and propose the most affordable way to meet the requirements. The program was also investigating centralized processing of SBIRS data at the ground station in the continental US (CONUS) as a feasible and cost effective solution to meeting requirements. Several Army representatives stated the Army did not trust the ability of the USAF to reliably provide the warning message through existing communications networks from CONUS regardless of cost savings. Furthermore, the Army was interested in saving its theater mobile DSP data processor program called the Joint Tactical Ground System (JTAGS) by incorporating it into the SBIRS architecture. The USAF leadership ultimately dropped opposition to DDL when the trade study results indicated the cost of each concept was essentially equivalent. Furthermore, mobile processing units based on the JTAGS design were incorporated into the concepts of both competing contractors, and they contributed to the cost effective survivability solution proposed by the winning contractor. In this case, military utility from the Army’s perspective drove the resolution in the face of cost equivalence.

The technical intelligence (TI) performance requirements, advocated by the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC), were the most stressing on SBIRS. The performance levels for the Coverage and Minimum Threat were the problems; fully attaining them was not affordable based on preliminary contractor cost/performance trade studies. Furthermore, the members of the warfighting community did not consider TI requirements as high a priority as the other missions. Despite aggressive efforts by the TI representatives on the program, the recommendations to the JROC called for the SBIRS ORD threshold performance for Coverage and Minimum Threat to be relaxed a minimal amount. This was perhaps the only instance of SBIRS trading cost for minimum performance.

Another analysis issue during Pre-EMD involved the performance allocation between the High and Low Components to meet threshold performance for all Key Performance Parameters. The validated SBIR CRD required the system of systems to meet performance requirements, not just the High Component. Through their analyses, the contractors had determined that each of their optimum affordable solutions allocated performance to the Low Component, primarily in the mission area of missile defense. Since the High Component was to be developed and deployed first, the initially deployed system of High Component satellites will not meet all the SBIRS ORD requirements. The Army and Navy representatives working closely with the program wanted full performance on the initially deployed High Component constellation to support the theater missile defense mission. Their request, based on military utility, was not consistent with the "High now, Low later" approach that formed the basis of the program. More importantly, their request was not affordable.

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SBIR is managed by the Program Executive Officer for Space, Space and Missile Systems Center. This acquisition consists of two phases, Pre-Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) and EMD. Space and Missile Systems Center released Request for Proposal in February 1995.

The Pre-EMD phase consisted of space and ground system architecture level trades of performance, cost, and requirements and development of candidate solutions, after which a down-selection will take place. Associated tasks of the Pre-EMD phase include developing options for transition to the SBIRS-High from the existing DSP, identifying risk areas and conducting appropriate risk mitigation activities, and identifying and conducting key technology and prototype hardware and software demonstrations and simulations. The contractor will also conduct the performance assessment and integration planning associated with the potential introduction of a LEO component in the SBIRS architecture in the next decade. It was the Air Force's intention to award not less than two contracts for this phase with a performance period of 15 months, after which a progressive competition/down-selection would take place and an unpriced option will be exercised for the EMD phase.

A single contractor, selected for the EMD phase, will mature, finalize and integrate a selected design, validate manufacturing and production processes, produce elements of the architecture and integrate, test and evaluate the SBIRS-High. Potential prime sources, singularly or teamed, required experience in all of the following areas: A) systems architecture, engineering, and cost projection for complex space systems, B) design, development, analysis, and integration of space vehicles and associated ground systems meeting defined and derived requirements, C) subsystem and system integrated test and evaluation of space systems, D) critical surveillance technologies including their development and integration for future space systems, E) space system production capability, F) design and development of fixed and mobile ground systems for satellites, and G) launch vehicle operations including spacecraft/launch vehicle integration and test. All potential bidders must have a Top Secret /SCI clearance, verification of WNINTEL, and access to Top Secret and SCI storage and processing facilities by the time of contract award. Since access to classified and critical technologies will be required for this effort, foreign sources may only be able to participate at the subcontractor level and limited to only unclassified and non-critical technological information.

On 17 December 1999 Lockheed Martin Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $531,117,229 (estimated) modification to a cost-plus-award-fee contract , F04701-95-C-0017-P00075, to provide for the restructure of the Space Based Infrared System High program to reflect deferral of the first SBIRS GEO (Geosynchronous) satellite launch from FY2002 to FY2004. This effort also incorporates the following changes into the SBIRS High contract: make all the Multi-Mission Mobile Processors physically and functionally identical and add S-band kits; develop and implement a launch strategy for the GEO space vehicles that allows use of two types of medium class Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles; provide capability for Technical Intelligence Real Time Operations, incorporate design changes to make the system comply with the Highly Elliptical Orbit Interface Control Document; develop a system simulation; and develop a Mission Control Station Backup. The SBIRS jointly defined mission capabilities will meet the nation's need for space-based missile warning, missile defense, battlespace characterization, and technical intelligence. Expected contract completion date is Dec. 31, 2008.


  • Achieving Affordable Operational Requirements on the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS): A Model for Warfighter and Acquisition Success? Jay A. Moody; Mark L. Devirgilio (Faculty Advisor) Air Command and Staff College 1997 - The SBIRS Program effectively overcame potential roadblocks to producing an effective warfighter-supported operational requirements document (ORD) in a severely constrained environment of competing customer and fiscal requirements priorities.

    Adapted from: Space and Missile Systems Center, "Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) SOL F04701-95-R-0012," Commerce Business Daily, Synopsis 0145, Issue No. PSA-1251, 28 December 1994; Space and Missile Systems Center, "Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) SOL F04701-95-R-0012," Commerce Business Daily, Synopsis 0302, Issue No. PSA-1274, 1 February 1995; Space and Missile Systems Center, "Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) SOL F04701-95-R-0012," Commerce Business Daily, Synopsis 0265, Issue No. PSA-1275, 2 February 1995; Space and Missile Systems Center, "Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) SOL F04701-95-R-0012," Commerce Business Daily, Issue No. PSA-1276, Synopsis 0161, 3 February 1995.

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