Space Force Picks Blue Origin, SpaceX, and ULA to Compete for $5.6 Billion in Launch Contracts

Favicon
By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 15, 2024 08:30
Space Force Picks Blue Origin, Spacex, And Ula To Compete For $5.6 Billion In Launch Contracts

The U.S. Space Force has awarded contracts worth up to $5.6 billion to Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and SpaceX for the National Security Space Launch Phase 3 (NSSL) program.

Announced on June 13, these contracts will span five years, with the three companies competing for launch orders starting in fiscal year 2025 through 2029.

This decision represents a significant shift in the landscape of national security launches, with Blue Origin entering a market previously dominated by SpaceX and ULA.

Details of the NSSL Phase 3 Contracts

The NSSL Phase 3 program is structured into two distinct lanes. Lane 1 is designated for less demanding launches to low Earth orbit, while Lane 2 targets heavy lift rockets capable of delivering payloads to nine reference orbits, including some of the most challenging national security missions.

See also
Northern Lights Set to Shine Brighter with New Solar Storm Forecasting Technique

The contracts announced for Lane 1 involve at least 30 missions over five years, with additional opportunities for companies to qualify as their launch capabilities mature.

Blue Origin, ULA, and SpaceX were the only companies to meet the criteria for Lane 1, despite seven bids being submitted. This marks a significant milestone for Blue Origin, as it is the first time the company, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has been selected to launch sensitive national security satellites.

Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, program executive officer for Assured Access to Space, noted, "As we anticipated, the pool of awardees is small this year because many companies are still maturing their launch capabilities. Our strategy accounted for this by allowing on-ramp opportunities every year, and we expect increasing competition and diversity as new providers and systems complete development."

See also
Boeing's Starliner Faces Further Delays, NASA Assures Astronauts' Safety

Blue Origin's New Glenn Rocket

Blue Origin's New Glenn heavy lift reusable rocket, which has been in development for nearly a decade, is slated for its first orbital flight later this year. The company will receive $5 million as part of the initial capabilities assessment for its mission assurance.

This funding is aimed at ensuring that New Glenn meets the stringent requirements set by the Space Force for national security missions. Earlier this year, the Space Force awarded Blue Origin nearly $18 million for NSSL Phase 3 early integration studies to evaluate the capabilities of the New Glenn rocket.

In contrast, SpaceX and ULA, being incumbent Phase 2 providers, will receive $1.5 million each for any risk-reduction and security measures needed to ensure their rockets meet the Space Force’s requirements. This financial support underscores the Space Force’s commitment to maintaining high standards of reliability and security for its launch vehicles.

See also
FAA Investigates SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Failure During Starlink Launch

Strategic Goals and Future Opportunities

The NSSL Phase 3 program aims to enhance competition, reduce launch costs for national security payloads, and maintain assured access to space through redundant capabilities. This strategic approach is designed to integrate the latest domestic commercial innovations into the launch program as soon as they become available.

According to Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, "The NSSL Phase 3 launch service procurement contracts provide the opportunity to include the most current domestic commercial innovation into our launch program as soon it becomes available."

The strategy includes annual on-ramp opportunities to encourage increasing competition and diversity as new providers and systems complete development. Potential new entrants for future on-ramps include Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, and Firefly Aerospace, which are developing medium lift rockets aimed at Lane 1 missions. These companies are expected to bring additional capabilities and competition to the NSSL program as their technologies mature.

See also
Boeing Starliner Mission Faces Extended Delay, Return Postponed Until July

Implications and Industry Impact of Space Force

The awarding of these contracts underscores the growing importance of diverse and reliable launch providers in maintaining national security. Space Force officials have emphasized the goal of integrating the latest domestic commercial innovations into the launch program as soon as they become available. The selection process for Lane 2 providers, which involves more demanding missions requiring higher performance launch systems, is expected to be completed this fall, with up to three contracts to be awarded.

The NSSL Phase 3 program not only aims to secure the best technology and innovation for national security missions but also to drive down costs through increased competition. Brig. Gen. Panzenhagen highlighted that "Our strategy accounted for this by allowing on-ramp opportunities every year, and we expect increasing competition and diversity as new providers and systems complete development."

See also
New Theory Suggests Earth's Unique Geology May Explain Why We Are Alone in the Universe

This approach ensures that the Space Force can benefit from the latest advancements in the commercial space sector while maintaining robust and reliable access to space for critical defense missions.

The successful execution of these contracts will play a crucial role in the continued advancement and sustainability of the United States' national security space capabilities. As these companies develop and refine their technologies, the NSSL program will likely see enhanced performance and reduced costs, ultimately benefiting the broader objectives of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Favicon

An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

Follow us on Google News Dailygalaxy.com - Support us by adding us to your Google News favorites.

No comment on «Space Force Picks Blue Origin, SpaceX, and ULA to Compete for $5.6 Billion in Launch Contracts»

Leave a comment

Comments are subject to moderation. Only relevant and detailed comments will be validated. - * Required fields