SSC’s ‘Fight Tonight’ Competition elicits innovative thinking we can act on now to stay ahead of the threat

  • Published
  • By Linda Kane, SSC Public Affairs
In the race to resilience by 2026, Space Systems Command is tapping every avenue of innovation to put fresh ideas on a faster track. Its latest effort is Fight Tonight, an internal competition open to all SSC personnel. The objective: to drive ingenuity and innovation at the speed of need.

“The need has never been more urgent than it is today,” said Capt. Darrell Dancy, Fight Tonight’s lead action officer and an acquisitions program manager. “China and Russia are proving their capabilities and intentions to disrupt our satellites in space and our way of life on earth. The time to act is now. That’s the mindset and driver behind this competition: What would we need if we had to Fight Tonight.”

The competition elicited more than 80 actionable ideas, all focused on the first two thirds of SSC’s mantra: Exploit what we have, buy what we can, and build what we have to. Entrants had two months to develop their ideas, with a requirement that they all be viable for implementation immediately and brought to completion within a one- to four-year period.

Entries came from the broad range of SSC Program Executive Offices as well as the Space Systems Integration Office, Space Operations Command, Air Force Research Lab, and federally funded partners. Each idea was evaluated based on innovativeness, impact to the 2026 fight, feasibility, and impact to warfighters. Twenty-one teams were selected to present their solutions to a panel of judges led by Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, SSC commander, and Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, USSF, special assistant to the vice chief of space operations. Seven finalists were selected, and the final winning ideas will receive up to $8 million in funding.

If this sounds like a deviation from standard operating procedure, that’s because it decidedly is.

“The Program Objective Memorandum (POM) process and Unfunded Requirement process are in place for a good reason,” noted Dancy. “It’s to make sure the best ideas come to the forefront, and they are vetted through multiple communities; however, sometimes that process can stifle out ‘good ideas’ that might not have the necessary funding or supported communities behind them yet. Fight Tonight helped bring those ideas to the forefront so that we can act on them very quickly.”

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Fight Tonight saved five to six years of development and POM-ing,” added Dancy. “It’s representative of our new culture at SSC and it’s something we plan to repeat every year.”

Winning ideas will be selected from the final pool of seven finalists and announced on Nov. 18.

Who will win the fight tonight? Thanks to the efforts of SSC, we all stand to benefit from more resilient space capabilities