ULA, SpaceX Win NSSL Phase 2 Awards

 In Industry, Acquisition, & Innovation, Uncategorized, Russia, Air, Space, Forces & Capabilities

The U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) announced this after­noon that the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX are the two win­ners of the Phase 2 con­tracts for National Security Space Launches (NSSL).  They beat out Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin in the hard fought com­pe­ti­tion for launch ser­vice con­tracts begin­ning in 2022.

Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, called it a “ground­break­ing day” that marks “a new epoch of space launch that will tran­si­tion the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

ULA uses RD-180 engines for its Atlas V rock­ets, but will tran­si­tion to U.S.-made engines for its new Vulcan-Centaur rock­ets expect­ed to begin ser­vice during the con­tract period. The use of Russian engines to launch U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty satel­lites became con­tro­ver­sial after the U.S.-Russian geopo­lit­i­cal cli­mate changed fol­low­ing Russia’s annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014 and Russian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 U.S. elec­tions. After bitter debates in the Senate, Congress directed DOD in 2016 to end use of Russian rocket engines for nation­al secu­ri­ty launch­es.

The Air Force Phase 2 NSSL solic­i­ta­tion was designed to select two, and only two, com­pa­nies for launch ser­vice con­tracts issued in FY2020-FY2024 for DOD and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) mis­sions.  The launch­es them­selves are to take place in FY2022-FY2027.  One com­pa­ny would receive 60 per­cent and the other 40 per­cent of the launch­es.

Today’s announce­ment is that ULA, which for over a decade was the only launch ser­vice provider to DOD, gets the 60 per­cent and SpaceX 40 per­cent.

SMC, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with NRO, today are order­ing three launch­es in FY2022:  two from ULA for $337 mil­lion and one for SpaceX for $316 mil­lion.

ULA President Tory Bruno said the com­pa­ny is “hon­ored” to be chosen.

“Vulcan Centaur is the right choice for crit­i­cal nation­al secu­ri­ty space mis­sions and was pur­pose built to meet all of the require­ments of our nation’s space launch needs. For decades, we have been a trust­ed part­ner to safely and secure­ly deliv­er strate­gic nation­al secu­ri­ty space assets for our nation’s defense and this award shows the con­tin­ued con­fi­dence of our cus­tomer in the com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion of our people to safe­guard these mis­sions by reli­ably launch­ing our country’s most crit­i­cal and chal­leng­ing mis­sions.”  — ULA President Tory Bruno

Northrop Grumman expressed dis­ap­point­ment that its OmegA rocket was not select­ed.

We are dis­ap­point­ed by this deci­sion. We are con­fi­dent we sub­mit­ted a strong pro­pos­al that reflect­ed our exten­sive space launch expe­ri­ence and pro­vid­ed value to our cus­tomer, and we are look­ing for­ward to our debrief­ing from the cus­tomer. — Northrop Grumman

Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, point­ed to his company’s pri­vate invest­ment of $2.5 bil­lion in the New Glenn rocket as a strength of its bid and vowed to con­tin­ue on.

We are dis­ap­point­ed in the deci­sion that New Glenn was not select­ed for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement (LSP). We sub­mit­ted an incred­i­bly com­pelling offer for the nation­al secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty and the U.S. tax­pay­er. Blue Origin’s offer was based on New Glenn’s heavy-lift per­for­mance, unprece­dent­ed pri­vate invest­ment of more than $2.5 bil­lion, and a very com­pet­i­tive single basic launch ser­vice price for any mis­sion across the entire order­ing period. We are pro­ceed­ing with New Glenn devel­op­ment to ful­fill our cur­rent com­mer­cial con­tracts, pursue a large and grow­ing com­mer­cial market, and enter into new civil space launch con­tracts. We remain con­fi­dent New Glenn will play a crit­i­cal role for the nation­al secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty in the future due to the increas­ing real­iza­tion that space is a con­test­ed domain and a robust, respon­sive, and resilient launch capa­bil­i­ty is ever more vital to U.S secu­ri­ty. — Bob Smith, Blue Origin

Smith con­tin­ued that Blue Origin nonethe­less is happy that ULA’s Vulcan was chosen since it will use Blue Origin’s BE‑4 engines.

Blue Origin is very proud that our BE‑4 engine will power United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehi­cle in sup­port of the Space Force’s NSSL pro­gram and end reliance on Russian-built engines. The BE‑4 is the most pow­er­ful liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas-fueled rocket engine ever devel­oped and the first oxygen-rich staged com­bus­tion engine made in the U.S. We look for­ward to sup­port­ing ULA’s long-stand­ing role in launch­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty pay­loads.

SpaceX had not issued a state­ment as of press time.

Source: Space Policy Online

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