Air Force awards three Launch Service Agreements

Mindy Sparks
October 12, 2018

While the prototypes are being developed, the Air Force will continue to competitively award commercial launch services contracts to providers who demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify and deliver launch systems and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver National Security Space satellites to orbit.

Blue Origin, which has a launch site east of El Paso in Van Horn, Texas, has entered into a Launch Services Agreement partnership with the U.S. United Launch Alliance will take home the lion's share of $967 million, which will go towards developing its Vulcan rocket.

Northrop Grumman Corp., which acquired Orbital ATK Inc. this year, won a $791.6 million contract for development of its Omega rocket.

"These awards are central to the Air Force goal of two domestic, commercially viable launch providers that meet National Security Space requirements", said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Air Force's Program Executive Officer for Space and SMC commander, in a release.

Blue Origin is now developing the rocket reusable New Glenn, for the years 2020, and for which it has opened a plant last year. "I'm excited to announce these creative partnerships that directly support the Air Force's strategy to drive innovation and leverage commercial industry". The rocket will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Bezos tweeted a thank-you message Wednesday to the Air Force for its "confidence in the Blue Origin team".

Blue Origin's and Northrop's prototype vehicles for military launches are expected to be ready to fly by late 2024 and ULA's Vulcan rocket development should be completed by March 2025.

The Air Force program dates back to 2003, and is an effort to modernize the Air Force's rocket fleet and move it away from its reliance on ULA's Delta II rocket, which was costly, and ULA's Atlas V rocket, which used Russian RD-180 engines. The company will also be providing the engines to power the first stage of ULA's Vulcan Centaur rocket.

United Launch Alliance in 2015 announced it plans to retire the Delta IV variant.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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