Science: Air Force Awards Launch Vehicle Development Contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, ULA

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force announced on Wednesday it is awarding three contracts collectively worth about $2 billion to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance to develop launch system prototypes.

The funding is for the development of competing launch system prototypes geared toward launching national security payloads. Each company will receive an initial award of $181 million.

The Launch Service Agreements are for the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn, Northrop Grumman’s Omega and ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets. The awards are part of cost-sharing arrangements — known as Other Transaction Agreements — that the Air Force is signing with the three companies to ensure it has multiple competitors. The Air Force has committed a total of $500 million in OTA funds for Blue Origin, $792 million for Northrop Grumman and $967 million for ULA. SpaceX previously received an LSA award but did not make the cut this time.

The Launch Service Agreements will “facilitate the development of three domestic launch system prototypes and enable the future competitive selection of two national security space launch service providers for future procurements,” the Air Force said in a news release.

“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. “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.”

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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