SpaceX and ULA Win Massive National Security Launch Contracts

 In Air, Space

SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have won mas­sive five-year National Security Space Launch con­tracts from the U.S. Space Force and National Reconnaissance Office, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced Aug. 7.

The con­tracts will sup­port more than 30 heavy lift launch­es planned between fiscal 2022 through 2027, with task orders to be made from fiscal 2020 through 2024. 60 per­cent of launch ser­vices orders will go to ULA, with SpaceX taking up the remain­ing 40 per­cent. The two Firm-Fixed-Price, Indefinite Delivery Requirement con­tracts includ­ed fund­ing for the first year of launch­es: $337 for ULA and $316 for SpaceX.

“This is a ground­break­ing day, cul­mi­nat­ing years of strate­gic plan­ning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO and our launch ser­vice indus­try part­ners,” said William Roper, assis­tant sec­re­tary of the U.S. Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in a state­ment. “Maintaining a com­pet­i­tive launch market, ser­vic­ing both gov­ern­ment and com­mer­cial cus­tomers, is how we encour­age con­tin­ued inno­va­tion on assured access to space. Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will final­ly tran­si­tion the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

Following a Congressional man­date, the Department of Defense began the NSSL com­pe­ti­tion in 2019 to end U.S. reliance on the Russian propul­sion sys­tems used for the Atlas V and Delta IV rock­ets. A four-way competition ensued, with Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and ULA design­ing new rock­ets for the mil­i­tary and SpaceX sub­mit­ting their already cer­ti­fied Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rock­ets. The Space and Missile Systems Center claimed that a report issued in April by think tank RAND sup­port­ed its deci­sion to award con­tracts to only two launch providers, arguing that the market could only support two.

“This land­mark award begins the dawn of a new decade in U.S. launch inno­va­tion, while pro­mot­ing com­pe­ti­tion, main­tain­ing a healthy indus­tri­al base, and rein­forc­ing our global com­pet­i­tive advan­tage,” stated Lt. Gen. John Thompson, com­man­der of SMC and pro­gram exec­u­tive offi­cer for space. “This acqui­si­tion will main­tain our unprece­dent­ed mis­sion suc­cess record, tran­si­tion National Security Space pay­loads to new launch vehi­cles, assure access for cur­rent and future space archi­tec­tures and cul­ti­vate inno­v­a­tive mis­sion assur­ance prac­tices.”

With the announce­ment, SMC announced the first three mis­sions to be assigned under the new con­tracts: USSF-51 and USSF-106 for ULA, and USSF-67 for SpaceX. All three will take place in fiscal 2022.

This story will be updat­ed.

C4ISRNET source|articles

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