Saturday, 25 May, 2019

Three companies to develop rockets for national security launches

Blue Origin wins $500-million Air Force contract for development of New Glenn rocket Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket wins Air Force contract
Sandra Phillips | 12 October, 2018, 22:02

Our launch program is a great example of how we are fielding tomorrow's Air Force faster and smarter.

The three contracts are part of a Department of Defence initiative to assure constant military access to space and curb reliance on foreign-made rocket engines, like ULA's flagship Atlas V rocket that uses Russian-made RD-180 boosters.

The public-private partnerships will ensure "the US maintains assured access to space, with at least two domestic launch service providers and without reliance on non-allied rocket propulsion systems". The Atlas uses RD-180 engines made in Russian Federation. The rocket has been under development since 2014, and ULA expects the first launch of the new rocket to occur no earlier than mid-2020.

Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems used to be known as Orbital ATK Inc. and operates as the aviation division of parent company Northrop Grumman.

Two of the new rockets will be selected in a second competition, providing assured access to space through the next decade and beyond.

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Blue Origin is now developing the rocket reusable New Glenn, for the years 2020, and for which it has opened a plant last year.

"The LSA partnership enables rapid buildout of NSS-unique New Glenn infrastructure such as vertical payload integration capability and a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base as well as completion of NSS certification activities".

The company's Omega rocket is proposed as a vehicle to launch national security satellites for the United States Air Force and could launch other government and commercial payloads, including to Geostationary transfer orbit. Design work on the vehicle began in 2012. 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 U.S. government.

Blue Origin will build the New Glenn launch vehicle under a potential $500M contract. "These awards are central to the Air Force goal of two domestic, commercially viable launch providers that meet National Security Space requirements", said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Air Force's Program Executive Officer for Space and SMC commander.

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