SSC announces ESS industry day

By Michael Marrow / November 28, 2022 at 12:55 PM

Space Systems Command is holding an industry day Dec. 12 to inform the acquisition strategy for the Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications (ESS) program, according to a notice posted by SSC.

ESS is the planned replacement for the Space Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites that provide secure SATCOM for warfighters. The program has been in the rapid prototyping phase since 2020 to mature the constellation’s eXtended Data Rate (XDR) payload, with the industry day aimed at determining the market’s ability to compete for the follow-on phase that will field the system.

Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin were previously awarded contracts for their ESS prototypes that are expected to be ready by 2025. The three companies are the primary candidates for a single ESS contract, which SSC said in a statement to Inside Defense is planned to be awarded in fiscal year 2025.

At the industry day, which will be held at the secret classification level, SSC will share an initial set of requirements for ESS and collect feedback through a bidders’ library, the notice says. Respondents must be able to demonstrate the XDR payload by the first quarter of FY-24 and have a plan to deliver two space vehicles within 66 months of the contract award.

Potential bidders for the ESS space segment are also expected to display understanding of “user needs and ground system interfaces,” according to the industry day notice.

SSC is concurrently pursuing the ground segment for the ESS constellation, called Ground Resilient Integration and Framework for Operational Nuclear Command, Control and Communications (GRIFFIN), with the competition for the initial phase underway following a request for prototype proposals published in October.

According to SSC, two contractors will be selected for an 18-month demonstration period by March 2023 for the GRIFFIN effort, which will then be narrowed to one vendor after the demonstration concludes.

Responses to the ESS industry day posting are due Dec. 2, the notice says.