Home Air Pentagon selects SpaceX, ULA as future rocket launch providers

Pentagon selects SpaceX, ULA as future rocket launch providers

Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center June 23, 2017.
Photo: SpaceX

The US Space and Missile Systems Center has selected SpaceX and United Launch Alliance LLC (ULA) as the preferred providers for National Security Space Launch services.

United Launch Services received $337 million for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) phase 2 contract, while SpaceX received $316 million. The two companies were selected over Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

The phase 2 procurement contracts are for launch service orders starting in fiscal year 2020 through 2024, with the first missions launching in fiscal year 2022. The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center will order launch services annually from ULA and SpaceX. Consistent with the acquisition strategy, ULA will receive a requirements contract for approximately 60% of launch services orders and SpaceX will receive a requirements contract for approximately 40% of launch services orders over the contract period.

“This is a groundbreaking day, culminating years of strategic planning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO and our launch service industry partners,” said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space. Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

Concurrent with this announcement, the SMC Launch Enterprise, in collaboration with the NRO, will order the first three missions assigned under phase 2. ULA has been assigned USSF-51 and USSF-106 scheduled for launch in the second quarter fiscal year 2022 and fourth quarter fiscal year 2022, respectively. SpaceX has been assigned USSF-67, scheduled for launch in fourth quarter fiscal year 2022.

“This landmark award begins the dawn of a new decade in US launch innovation, while promoting competition, maintaining a healthy industrial base, and reinforcing our global competitive advantage,” stated Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of SMC, and program executive officer for Space.

“This was an extremely tough decision and I appreciate the hard work industry completed to adapt their commercial launch systems to affordably and reliably meet our more stressing national security requirements,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SMC’s Launch Enterprise. “I look forward to working with ULA and SpaceX as we progress towards our first phase 2 launches.”