3 companies win major Air Force rocket contracts

Adjust Comment Print

The public-private Launch Service Agreements awarded almost $792 million to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which acquired defense and space contractor Orbital ATK in June.

The army intends to select, in fine, the two companies to send their satellites into space, which will only use the american engines, so that the rocket Atlas that she uses now are equipped with engines of Russian. "The funding provided through this agreement will be used to tailor our launch vehicle and associated facilities for national security space needs". 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.

The awards go to Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin; United Launch Services, part of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) joint venture between Boeing Co BA.N and Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N ; and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems NOC.N . The service's goal is to move away from use of Russian-made RD-180 engines. 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.

In a statement, Bob Smith, the company chief executive officer said that the contract "allows us to further expand our launch manifest beyond our existing commercial customers to fly vital national security space missions".

"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 is receiving $791.6 million to develop their Omega rocket.

Blue Origin won a $500 million contract to help develop its New Glenn booster, a rocket with a fully reusable first stage powered by seven BE-4 engines burning liquefied natural gas.

United Launch Alliance in 2015 announced it plans to retire the Delta IV variant.