L3Harris Partners with Stratagem at Inaugural Air Force Space Pitch Day
Innovation demands risk – and at times – failure. That was one of the main themes heard at the first Air Force Space Pitch Day. Held in San Francisco, the two-day conference featured a newly-developed process for selection and funding that allows small businesses to advance innovative ideas. To take part in the unique engagement opportunity, L3Harris partnered with boutique software company, Stratagem Group, to employ agile engineering and research and development to meet the needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Intelligence Community.
“Continuous searches to team with the right small company with the right skills and right culture is the hallmark of our efforts to pursue these opportunities,” said Rad Widman, L3Harris senior project manager.
Widman, along with L3Harris Senior Scientist Dr. Tom Kelecy, L3Harris Systems Engineer Adam Marsh and engineers from Stratagem, identified a capability gap and DoD sponsor that could benefit from an offering for data quality assessments and utility to support the U.S. Air Force’s first Space Operations Squadron’s (1SOPS’) on-orbit sensors. The sensors provide optical observations for highly accurate orbit determination of high-valued assets. The team developed a pitch around their offering, which Stratagem delivered at the conference.
“The risks of failing in a small company are much different than in a big company,” said Kelecy. “They are better positioned to accept risk and recover from the failures than a company of our size. By aligning L3Harris with smaller, agile companies, we benefit from their innovation, which can help discriminate us from the competition.”
After the pitches concluded, the Air Force awarded $750,000 on the spot to 30 small businesses. Of those companies, the Air Force awarded seven – including Stratagem – up to $1.5 million more to advance their technologies further.
Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center commander, recently told SpaceNews.com, “What you see here is your Air Force trying to do things differently; experimenting with how we can work closer with the commercial space market particularly the small businesses. We have to transition from an industrial age acquisition model to something more modern. We have to do that because of the threats we are seeing from our adversaries.”
L3Harris and Stratagem will deliver a proposal to the Air Force outlining how they will spend $750,000 in funding. L3Harris anticipates receiving about half of the awarded funding to support improvements to the 1SOPS’ current operational capability.
The Air Force is betting that the small business participants will learn, thrive and be instrumental in modernizing Air Force capabilities that will give them an edge in space.