Air Force Doles Out $2.3B for Space Launch Contracts

Air Force Doles Out $2.3B for Space Launch Contracts

"These awards are central to the Air Force goal of two domestic, commercially viable launch providers that meet National Security Space requirements".

The Launch Service Agreements are for the development of Blue Origin's New Glenn, Northrop Grumman's Omega and ULA's Vulcan Centaur rockets.

SpaceX was not part of the award announced Wednesday, but the company's Falcon 9 rockets are used to launch military satellites, NASA spacecraft and commercial payloads from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg. "These innovative public-private partnerships with industry provide a path to develop launch vehicles to assure access to space, address the urgent need to transition away from strategic foreign reliance and provide responsive launch capabilities to the warfighter". The Atlas uses RD-180 engines made in Russian Federation. The rocket has been under development since 2014, and ULA expects the first launch of the new rocket to occur no earlier than mid-2020.

The awards go to billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin; United Launch Services, part of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) joint venture between Boeing Co BA.N and Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N ; and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems NOC.N . "We're making the most of the authorities Congress gave us, and we will no longer be reliant on the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine".

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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is expanding its purview into missions for the USA military.

The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne's RL10C engine.

In a statement, Bob Smith, the company chief executive officer said that the contract "allows us to further expand our launch manifest beyond our existing commercial customers to fly vital national security space missions". The company is receiving $791.6 million to develop their Omega rocket. The New Glenn is a reusable orbital vehicle created to land back on Earth after launch.

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