Northrop Grumman Awarded $792 Million Launch Services Agreement from US Air Force
13 October, 2018, 07:44 | Author: Sidney Guerrero
Orbital Sciences, recently acquired by Northrup Grumman, won a $791.6 million contract to develop the company's Omega launch system, a rocket that will be "capable of launching the full range of national security missions required by the U.S. Air Force, as well as science and commercial payloads for other customers", the company says on its web page.
"These awards are a leap forward in space launch capabilities, ensuring continued USA dominance in space", said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.
The funding awards, however, are not necessarily a guarantee that these companies will win launch contracts in the future, the Air Force said in a statement.
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. "Leveraging domestic commercial space launch systems is good for the Air Force, and a revitalized commercial launch industry is good for the taxpayer". The Air Force has committed through 2024 a total of $500 million in OTA funds for Blue Origin, $792 million for Northrop Grumman and $967 million for ULA. Crewed spacecraft could also be launched, just like the predecessor Ares I and Liberty rockets, which were created to launch the Orion space capsule. New Glenn is described as a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft), two- or three-stage rocket. The company will also be providing the engines to power the first stage of ULA's Vulcan Centaur rocket.
Blue Origin stated that it would pursue a launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base and would gain certification for national security missions. For almost a decade, ULA had a monopoly on Pentagon launches until it was challenged by SpaceX, which eventually was granted certification and has been competing against ULA.
The Defense Department has the option to narrow it to two companies no later than 2020 that will then compete for future launches.
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