Inaugural “Fight Tonight” Winning Innovation Project Currently in Software Development with operational accepted expected by Q2 FY25

  • Published
  • By Lisa Sodders, SSC/PA
The winning idea of Space Systems Command’s (SSC) inaugural “Fight Tonight” competition held last year is currently under development and on track to be operationally accepted in 2025.
“Fight Tonight” is Space Systems Command’s annual competition for all military and civilian SSC personnel; designed to generate actionable ideas to help SSC and the U.S. Space Force win in a contested and congested space environment if they had to “Fight Tonight.” Proposals were focused on the first two thirds of SSC’s mantra: exploit what we have, buy what we can, and build what we have to.

Last year, the winning idea came from Anita McCorvey, director of SSC’s Space Sensing Product Support Delta and her team: False Track Reduction using Machine Learning, winning $3 million in funding. The project, with a total budget of $5.4 million, is currently under software development and is scheduled for operational acceptance by the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2025.

“The Fight Tonight competition has been one of the greatest events I’ve seen in my career,” McCorvey said. “Having leadership literally put their money where their mouth is and capitalize on ideas from across SSC has been extraordinary. This competition gives Guardians at any level the opportunity to bring forth innovative ideas and present them directly to our senior leaders.  When has that ever happened before? What a fantastic forum to be able to do this.”

“For our False Track initiative, we not only received senior leadership support, but are able to accelerate getting critical capability to the warfighter, and I would not have been able to do this if it wasn’t for the funding from ‘Fight Tonight.’”

“On behalf of SSC’s entire Space Sensing team, I couldn’t be more proud of Anita nor more impressed by her innovative approach to maximize the performance of our nation’s missile warning systems and sustain them to ensure they are always ready for their no-fail mission,” said Col. Robert Davis, Space Force Program Executive Officer for Space Sensing. 

“Anita has delivered absolutely exceptional performance throughout her 34 years with the U.S. Air and Space Forces -- consistently contributing new and better approaches and solutions,” Davis said. “She won the first-ever Fight Tonight competition last year, and this year she’s a finalist for not just one, but two, revolutionary submissions.”

“Anita McCorvey represents exactly what Space Systems Command is all about — expertise in her field, a warfighter mindset, and a driving passion — and she is instrumental in Space Sensing’s mission to deliver integrated and resilient space sensing capabilities to sense, make sense, and win!” Davis said.

For their winning idea, McCorvey and her team noted that Space Force personnel track more than 6,500 potential missile events each month. For every real event, there are some 1,200 false alarms. Ongoing satellite additions, a shifting geopolitical landscape, and real-world events (e.g., missiles, walkers, special events, etc.) are expected to increase the number of tracks, real or false.

To meet the nation’s 2026 need, McCorvey and her team proposed using machine learning technology with algorithms informed by operational data logs to significantly reduce false events presented to operators.

Algorithms analyze dozens of features (e.g., motion, speed, and altitude) and assess them in real-time to distinguish events as real or false. A proof-of-concept study incorporating more than 100,000 false and real tracks proved false missile tracks could be reduced by 80% without discarding any real-world events. This capability will be quickly inserted into the current operational system without disruption to existing mission processing algorithms.

“Everything that we do in the Space Force relies on data,” McCorvey said. “When our satellites see something, we must be able to tell the warfighters and decision makers. The information has to be accurate, therefore eliminating non-relevant data (i.e false tracks) is essential during a conflict.”

“Because everything relies on data, the data has to get out fast,” McCorvey continued. “We cannot afford for it to have any time latency – it must be processed in the blink of an eye. If it gets there too late or is inaccurate, it’s worthless.”

“The unique position that Product Support is in, compared to an acquisition program, is that we are side-by-side with the operators,” McCorvey said. “So, when there are real world events, such the Israeli-Hamas and Ukraine/Russia wars, we facilitate ensuring the system and the data is performing optimally. We have immediate and first-hand knowledge of what’s causing the users problems and can correct them, thus enabling the warfighters to do their job effectively.”

“If I can minimize what the operator has to read, evaluate and understand by leveraging existing technology so that all they have to do is make the final decision – it is my obligation to do so,” McCorvey said.

“And that’s why, when this ‘Fight Tonight’ competition came up, it was the perfect initiative for me to get access to funding and to expedite the delivery (of that capability) without having to go through the arduous POM (Program Objective Memorandum) cycle,” said McCorvey.

“The false perception of Product Support is that all we do is keep the blinky lights blinking,” McCorvey said. “That once a system is delivered, we’re the Maytag Repairman - if it breaks, we come fix it.  However, Fight Tonight highlighted that we are also acquisition professionals and we can enhance the operational system and improve the users’ ability to fight - It was the greatest thing ever!”

“Because we are able to jump-start these initiatives, we are truly going to get capability to the warfighter,” McCorvey said. “So, five years from now, they’re going to have stuff that they wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for this competition – we can now get ahead of the threat.”

McCorvey has served the U.S. Air Force/U.S. Space Force as a civil servant for 34 years. She currently leads more than 75 airmen, government civilians and support contractors providing sustainment management for Defense Support Program (DSP) and Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) in operational and acquisition phases, ensuring high weapon system availability with proactive actions of sustaining engineering, logistics and technical support.
She also oversees the sustainment of the current weather system, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, which monitors meteorological, oceanography and solar-terrestrial physics for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Two other projects also were funded last year as runners-up: Red LAN Integrated Ops Support System (IOSS), a secure, local area network (LAN) to enable ops level planning with the rest of the Space Surveillance Network; and Project Paladin, a space vehicle with unique payloads designed to recreate various scenarios and stimulate ground- and space-based sensors to improve warfighter readiness across the space enterprise.

SSC’s 2023 winners will be announced at the Space Force Ball on Nov. 17 in Beverly Hills, Calif.