Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Air Force Doles Out $2.3B for Space Launch Contracts

Air Force Doles Out $2.3B for Space Launch Contracts

Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin will build rocket prototypes under three separate other-transaction agreements with the U.S. Air Force in support of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The awards were announced Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems will be receiving $791.6 million towards creating an all new rocket called the OmegA launch system. Each company will receive an initial award of $181 million. The contracts are to develop rockets and carry defence payloads into space.

Bezos, who also serves as Inc.'s chief executive, said in September he would personally invest $1 billion in New Glenn.

In a tweet, Bezos thanked the Air Force "for your confidence in the @BlueOrigin team and our #NewGlenn rocket".

Work on the launch system is expected to be completed by July 2024, according to a Defense Department contract notice. The New Glenn is a reusable orbital vehicle created to land back on Earth after launch.

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The Air Force said the OTAs awarded through a competitive acquisition process are part of its plan to competitively select two domestic commercial service providers that can support the launch of national security payloads by fiscal 2020.

The contracts went to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin.

Wednesday's contract award notice is a double victory of sorts for Blue Origin.

Named after Astronaut John Glenn, "New Glenn" is a single-configuration, operationally reusable launch vehicle - built right here in Kent - powered by seven BE-4 liquefied natural gas rocket engines, and it offers significant performance margin for all NSS missions. "These awards are a leap forward in space launch capabilities, ensuring continued US dominance in space", said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. SpaceX previously received an LSA award but did not make the cut this time. The Air Force sought at least two USA companies that could meet all of its requirements and needs over the coming years.

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