Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
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Blue Origin wins contract to power top secret Air Force space missions

Blue Origin wins contract to power top secret Air Force space missions

Blue Origin will develop its New Glenn launch system with an initial launch capability by 2020, according to an Air Force statement.

Awarded under the U.S. government's Launch Service Agreement, these contract form part of the U.S. government's attempts to reduce reliance on Russian rockets for launches that are of national importance from a security standpoint. What would further add to the sting for Elon Musk's company, is the fact that the DOD will be selecting two of these three companies to become official launch providers for the United States government.

United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, won a $967 million contract to develop its Vulcan Centaur rocket, a powerful launcher that will replace the company's venerable Delta 4 and Atlas 5 boosters.

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. "Our launch program is a great example of how we are fielding tomorrow's Air Force faster and smarter", said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. "Leveraging domestic commercial space launch systems is good for the Air Force, and a revitalized commercial launch industry is good for the taxpayer".

Meanwhile, the Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems will be receiving $791.6 million towards creating an all new rocket called the OmegA launch system.

Jeff Bezos' private space company will build the New Glenn rocket to ferry a 50-ton payload into low-Earth orbit, with its reusable first stage returning to the surface and landing. The "nontraditional acquisition arrangements" are typical for prototyping and "allow for shared investment", the Air Force said. "These awards are a leap forward in space launch capabilities, ensuring continued USA dominance in space", said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.

The Space and Missile Systems Center will obligate at the time of award $109M in fiscal 2018 funds to each company under the cost-share agreements. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, Military Satellite Communications, Defense Meteorological Satellites, Space Launch and Range Systems, Satellite Control Networks, Space Based Infrared Systems and Space Situational Awareness capabilities. SpaceX was not listed among the award recipients.

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