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21st SW awards contracts at Space Pitch Day


On Nov. 5, 2019, the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) kicked off the first Air Force Space Pitch Day at a San Francisco event, in which the center awarded up to $50 million in contract awards.

During this two-day event, small businesses and start-ups pitched to a specific Air Force Space mission set in hopes of scoring a contract with the Air Force.

Three companies, Optivolt Labs, Nou Systems and Omitron were awarded contracts for the 21st Space Wing that added up to approximately $5.5 million for different projects in autonomous senior calibrations, weapon system training simulators and solar power generation and storage.

Pitch days are designed as a fast-track program putting companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. This gives small business companies and start-ups access to the military market, and millions in contract awards. It’s a major departure from the lengthy contracting processes.

“The Air Force is leveraging modern commercial business practices to enable the rapid development of small business ecosystems that have dual-use cutting edge technologies to enable the fielding of fast, relevant and affordable solutions that support our Air Force,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander and Air Force Program Executive Officer for space.

Space Pitch Day is unique due to the internal partnerships between the end user warfighter and small businesses vying for a chance to work with the Air Force, according to Thompson.

“The biggest thing that I took away from the event is that the U.S. Air Force is serious about creating competition amongst vendors and other commercial partners, as well as streamlining the way we attack program modernization needs and the implementation of new weapon system capabilities,” said Maj. Alex Wyrick, 721st Operations Group combat development division chief. “By creating a competitive and more agile research and development atmosphere, the Air Force opens itself up to receive more user focused support and timelier return on investments at a fraction of the current large business pricing while also encouraging small businesses and startups that may or may not have any prior government experience to work with the Air Force as a viable first partner.”

Through the efforts of the wing’s combat development divisions, the wing now has direct access to Small Business Innovation Research funds as well as hundreds of small businesses.

“It is vitally important to continue collaborations with agencies outside of the Air Force’s traditional rolodex,” Wyrick said. “It invites competition within the enterprise; our current industry partners do a great job of supporting us, but why not shake things up and partner with new companies that bring untapped talent, innovation and industry resources.”

The Space Pitch Day event featured keynote speeches from military leaders, expert panels, and dozens of display booths. The innovative startups had the potential to earn contract awards in critical areas such as innovation in early missile detection and warning, space situational awareness, space communications, space visualization, multi-domain command and control, data mining, operations within electronically contested environments, artificial intelligence, responsive launch systems, space logistics, and protection of critical space assets.

Space Pitch Day demonstrates the Air Force’s commitment to building a faster and smarter strategy in technology investments and small, non-traditional partnerships.

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