Supporting The USAF’s Satellite Control Network

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Keep ’em runing…(click to view full) At the beginning of FY 2002, Honeywell won a support contract for the USAF’s Satellite Control Network (AFSCN). The SCN contract consolidated development, systems engineering, integration and support functions into one contract that has the potential to reach $1.22 billion, and run to FY 2017. Under this contract, Honeywell […]

Keep ’em runing…
(click to view full)

At the beginning of FY 2002, Honeywell won a support contract for the USAF’s Satellite Control Network (AFSCN). The SCN contract consolidated development, systems engineering, integration and support functions into one contract that has the potential to reach $1.22 billion, and run to FY 2017.

Under this contract, Honeywell will replace existing communications technologies that make up the AFSCN’s ground network and tracking systems with improved components and antenna systems. Honeywell’s team includes TRW, L-3 Communications, Booz-Allen and Hamilton, SPARTA Corporation, Integral Systems, Inc., and IITC.



The AFSCN is a global system that provides provide command, control, and communications for space vehicles and satellites. It provides telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) support for virtually all US defense space vehicles, plus selected space programs run by NASA and foreign allied nations. Satellite command and control is the essential mission of the AFSCN, but it also processes and distributes satellite mission data, and provides research and development support for space test activities.

AFSCN ties together various control centers, in order to integrate incoming and outgoing satellite control data. More satellite missions means more complexity, though some programs like the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and Global Positioning System (GPS) have dedicated elements that are unique to that constellation. Other systems are “common-user elements” that support a number of different space programs or military space systems, and may include command posts, mission control centers, resource control centers, and remote tracking stations, as well as various communication links, computer facilities, and training and testing facilities.

The 2007 Air Force Handbook listed the AFSCN as having 8 remote tracking stations, 15 antennas, 3 data link terminals, 1 checkout facility, and 2 transportable tracking station antennas, as well as 2 operations control centers. The network supports more than 150 satellites, with more than 160,000 contacts per year.

The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center awarded a series of AFSCN contracts to Lockheed Martin in 1996, which aimed to modernize most of its segments. They covered range and communications development, network operations, network integration, and support. The program office later decided to consolidate AFSCN work, and in December 2001 they awarded the Satellite Control Network Contract to Honeywell’s team.

All things evolve, and so must AFSCN. Its initial point-to-point architecture using proprietary data-transfer protocols is slowly evolving toward an interoperable network architecture using standard protocols. As the contracts below show, that evolution is an important aspect of Honeywell’s work.

Hardware is also changing. By 2002, SMC was also managing a coordinated series of modernization projects, known as the Remote Tracking Station Block Change, to upgrade and standardize each of the tracking stations in turn. Design reviews took place in 2002 and 2003, and the tracking stations were scheduled to actually receive the changes from 2004 through 2009.

Contracts & Key Events

SCN antenna

SCN antenna, 1960
(click to view full)

Unless otherwise specified, the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center SLG/PK at Peterson Air Force Base CO manages the contracts.

Aug 30/10: Honeywell Technology Solutions of Colorado Springs, Colo. was awarded a $219.4M contract modification which provides for AFSCN systems and maintenance engineering, network support integration, on site and off site depot level maintenance, and software maintenance, as needed (P04701-02-D-0006, PO 0065). See also Zacks analyst comment.

June 11/09: Honeywell announces a 3-year $61 million contract to complete modernization of the Air Force Satellite Control Network’s DOS-based Electronic Schedule Dissemination (ESD) system by 2011. Honeywell will deploy ESD 3.0 and its MS Windows/ Oracle architecture to more than 44 sites worldwide, where the system will orchestrate the operations linking 15 global ground antennas, as well as diverse space operations centers, with more than 140 on-orbit U.S. Government satellites and their data.

Honeywell touts ESD 3.0 as the largest single development program awarded under the SCNC in the 7 years they have held the contract.

Sept 18/08: Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc., of Colorado Springs, CO receives a $29.8 million firm-fixed-price delivery order, to buy a Transportable Remote Tracking Station ad part of the Satellite Contact Network.

The TRTS will be designed to operate in 3 scenarios: 1) a stand-alone satellite tracking station that can completely replace a fixed site tracking station; 2) a stand-alone antenna subsystem that can replace one fixed site’s antenna; and 3) a stand-alone computer electronics subsystem that can replace one fixed site’s computer suite. This ability to split the TRTS into separate stand-alone parts will give the USAF the flexibility to fix specific problems at several satellite tracking sites simultaneously. The Transportable will also be used to provide extra satellite communications support in “hot spots” around the world, without having to build costly permanent satellite tracking sites. At this time $16.4 million has been committed by the Satellite Control Network Group/PK in El Segundo, CA (F04701-02-D-0006; #0127).

Jan 8/08: Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc. of Colorado Springs, CO is being awarded a modification to an indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract for $389,649,504. This action will increase the number of hours on the contract the government may order during FY’s 08, 09, and 10. Hours will be ordered as required and money obligated on delivery orders issued under the contract terms and conditions. The contract provides for systems and maintenance engineering, network support integration, on-site and off-site depot level maintenance and software maintenance of the Air Force Satellite Control Network. At this time no funds have been obligated. SMC SLG/PK, Peterson Air Force Base Colo. is the contracting activity (F04701-02-D-0006, PO 0036).

Sept 14/07: The 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schreiver AFB, CO reach a crucial milestone when they declared all Architecture Evolution Plan transition activities complete at 11:23 a.m. after Airmen with the 2nd and 19th SOPS completed Global Positioning System navigation data uploads to the 31-satellite GPS constellation. Tie-ins to AFSCN stations are one of the AEP project’s big benefits, adding those facilities an existing array of GPS ground control stations around the world.

The $800-million update to the GPS constellation’s ground control system had to be switched over from it mainframe architecture to the distributed computing system seamlessly, in real time, without any data service interruption to users. Lt. Col. Janet Grondin, the GPS operational control segment program manager for the GPS Wing at Los Angeles AFB, CA:

“We did testing early on to see if we could connect to our satellites through AFSCN… It’s a huge capability: we can now contact a satellite at any time… The control segment is what develops the navigation signal and keeps the timing signal correct,” said. “When we’re replacing that signal with a new one, you can’t get that wrong. That’s the real feat. The measure of success is that warfighters and civil users can go about their business using GPS…”

GPS is a dedicated system constellation, so the contract itself is not part of AFSCN support. Boeing won the $800-million AEP contract, and a one point in the fall of 2006, more than 400 employees from both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin were assigned to the project. GPS’ significance meant that a wide array of military and civilian agencies were involved, including a core team from Boeing Corporation, Lockheed-Martin, Aerospace, Air Force Space Command, 14th Air Force, the 50th SW, 310th Space Group, GPS Wing, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB, NM, and the 746th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB, NM. USAF.

March 13/06: Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc. in Colorado Springs, CO receives a $10 million indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity, cost plus award fee contract to develop the remote tracking station block change’s high power amplifier for the AFSCN.

Solicitations began and negotiations were completed in March 2006, and work will be complete in September 2007. $4,464,285 has been committed by the HQ Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, CA (F04701-02-D-0006, #0075).

Dec 14/04: The 23rd Space Operations Squadron here begins operations confidence testing of its newest AFSCN antenna at New Boston Air Force Station, NH. Passive autotrack tests went very well. Phase 2 will be a 2nd operations confidence test; the 3rd phase will be a segment verification test, and the final phase will be integrated system testing.

The new antenna replaces a 119,000 pound, 44-year-old antenna that had an expected 10-12 year lifespan, and was decommissioned in 2004 due to a bad azimuth bearing. While the new antenna was under construction, SMC’s Transportable Space Test and Evaluation Resource filled in for the original antenna. USAF.

March 10/04: A series of allegations to the Pentagon’s fraud/waste reporting hotline prompt a program audit. The allegations said the program was in jeopardy, with an expected $1.7 billion in cost overruns over the next 15 years; false claims by Honeywell that it had Earned Value Management tracking systems in place when it won the award; inappropriate billing of the EVM system, 6 Sigma work, and computers to the AFSCN contract; and that the USAF’s decision to split the program into development and sustainment elements was a self-inflicted wound. The Department of Defense’s Inspector General reports:

“We substantiated that the modernization program for the Air Force satellite tracking station was experiencing cost over runs… estimated at $59.8 million through FY 2009 and schedule delays of 24 months… We substantiated that Honeywell stated it had an earned value management system in place at time of contract award when it did not, and we also determined that the Air Force erroneously reimbursed Honeywell for costs for building [it]… remedies should include obtaining the services of the Defense Contract Audit Agency… and to obtain reimbursement for the unallowable costs. Also, the next award fee determination for this contract should reflect Honeywell’s inability to meet contract requirements… Further, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center should initiate appropriate civil or criminal proceedings, or both, against Honeywell for violating false claim and false statement statutes. (See finding B for information on the detailed recommendations.)

We did not substantiate allegations that the contract over runs resulted from Honeywell’s intentionally underestimating costs in its proposal or that the contract would cost $1.7 billion over 15 years. Additionally, we did not substantiate allegations. (See Appendix B for further details regarding the unsubstantiated allegations). pertaining to a Six Sigma quality control program, computer procurements, or splitting the program office. (See Appendix B for detailed information on the allegations.)”

Feb 5/03: Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc. in Colorado Springs, CO receives a $25.5 millioncost-plus award-fee contract modification for 2 full remote tracking station block change suites, to be installed at Colorado Tracking Station and Guam Tracking Station-B.

Suites will include digital signal processors and all other components of the core configuration item (CI) as well as a high power amplifier and all other components of the antenna. This effort includes site-specific critical design reviews as well as remote tracking station block change equipment configuration, integration and test at the integration and test support center. Work will be complete by December 2007, and all funds have been committed by the HQ Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB (F04701-02-D-0006, #0026).

Dec 18/01: Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc. in Columbia, MD receives an initial $552.1 million maximum indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quality contract to support the AFCN. Honeywell will provide systems engineering and integration, development, sustainment, program management and operations and maintenance , but funds will only be committed as individual delivery orders are issued. Actual USAF requirements may be less than the contract total.

There were 3 firms solicited in November 2000, and 3 proposals were received. Negotiations were complete in November 2001. The contractor will perform this effort at its facility in Colorado Springs, CO (F04701-02-D-0006).

The Honeywell SCNC team includes TRW, L-3 Communications, Booz-Allen and Hamilton, SPARTA Corporation, Integral Systems, Inc and IITC. See also Mother Jones, which estimates the contract’s total value at $1.22 billion over up to 15 years, if all options are exercised. Those figures were confirmed by other sources, including the Pentagon’s Inspector General, who defined it as a 6 year contract with 3 three-year option periods.

Additional Readings

* USAF – Air Force Satellite Control Network. Working site, not a public information site.

* Los Angeles AFB – Satellite Control and Network Systems. See also their PDF file, with more history: “Chapter VI: Air Force Satellite Control Network.”

* Wikipedia – Air Force Satellite Control Network

* Honeywell – Satellite Control Network Contract (SCNC)

* Crosslink (Summer 2006) – Evolution of the Air Force Satellite Control Network

* Pentagon Office of the Inspector General (March 10/04) – Air Force Satellite Control Network Contract – Report No. D-2004-056 – Project No. DD2003AB-0148.000. That’s the HTML summary. See also full report PDF.

* USAF Air University (Aug 18/04) – Force Support–Air Force Satellite Control Network

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