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SpaceX, ULA won a military launch contract worth billions of dollars in the year of execution



Ending the process that began almost two years ago, the US Air Force (now the Space Force) chose SpaceX and ULA as the recipients of a series of multi-billion dollar launch contracts that last through the late 2020s.

Known as the National Security (LSA) National Security Phase 2 Startup Service Acquisition (LSA), the US Air Force publicly commenced the initiative in Q4 2018. In May 2019, The LSA process was open to contractors, and the military finally received serious proposals from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin.

While the following three companies proposed their next-generation rockets –

; still in development – to complete at least a dozen military launches between 2022 and 2027, SpaceX offered the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. In April 2020, Falcon 9 officially usurped the ULA Atlas V rocket to become the most effective missile in the United States. While ULA technically included Atlas V as a back-up in the NSSL Phase 2 package, the company’s primary launch vehicle, the Vulcan Centaur, is scheduled to fly for the first time no earlier than July. year 2021.

(Teslarati – ULA / NGIS / Blue Origin / SpaceX)

Hence, failing to give SpaceX at least one of the two NSSL LSA Phase 2 positions – split 60:40 – will almost certainly become a farce in the US military competition. The real question then is who will win the rest of the award, and whether the US military will shock the industry with a more technical than political final decision. As discussed previously on Teslarati, the fact that four separate companies are filing serious bids for Phase 2 presents the US military with a significant opportunity.

“For unclear reasons, the United States Air Force (USAF) structured the Phase 2 acquisition of NSSL in such a way that – although there are four competitors – only two will be awarded contracts at the end. . About ~ 34 debut contracts to win will be split 60:40 between the two winning sides, leaving the two opponents completely empty. ”

Teslarati.com – August 14, 2019

Despite Blue Origin’s continued recommendations and efforts to intervene by lawmakers in Congress, the U.S. military remains stubbornly against handing out a Phase 2 launch contract to more than two vendors in throughout the competition. Preventing successful protests from overbearing bidders Northrop Grumman and / or Blue Origin, it looks like the military finally won the battle, picking out two suppliers.

Omega. (Northrop Grumman)
New Glenn. (Blue Origin)

Instead of just handing a handful of 34 launch contracts to Northrop Grumman, the US Space Forces just made sure that the company’s Omega missile would die in a crib without a series of immediate additional military contracts. ie. It is likely that NSSL Phase 1 LSA funding will continue, potentially giving NG the money needed to complete Omega’s development, but that is not yet guaranteed.

Fully funded from Jeff Bezos’ pocket money, Blue Origin’s ambitious New Glenn reusable rockets are more insulated in the absence of U.S. military contracts, and the company could continue to get a few hundred as well. million dollars as part of a Phase 1 LSA award. For Blue Origin, which has already begun bringing New Glenn into the commercial launch market, military funding could ensure that the company does more of the work it needs. certification of the missile and its manufacturing facility for military launches.

Essentially, that means the U.S. Air Force, Space Force, or National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) can all award a Blue Origin or Northrop Grumman launch contract out of 34 Phase 2 missions without falling in love. the bridge must begin the development and certification process. It may take a year or so from scratch.

SpaceX completed the first US Army Falcon 9 launch on June 30. (Richard Angle)

Regardless of missed opportunities, the NSSL LSA Phase 2 contract was a huge win for SpaceX and secured the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets a number of 13-14 military launch contracts within the deadline. 5 years. For the ULA, victory seemed like a huge relief, as the company’s next-generation (consumable) Vulcan Centaur missile no longer has a chance to be sustained by commercial launch contracts. Like the Atlas V in the preceding decade of its missile life and Delta IV for much of its two-decade career, the ULA Vulcan missile will continue its trend of relying mostly solely on military contracts. America.

Around this time, however, the US military’s preference for the ULA was apparent. At almost every turn, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets can provide ULA-like launch service for 20-50% less. For some (directly to geostationary) missions where ULA’s Atlas V, Delta IV, and Vulcan rockets could actually take a step up over SpaceX, the US could easily give ULA a 40% small stake. more or even divide that 40% market share by Blue Origin or Northrop Grumman, giving SpaceX lion share and potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars – if not $ 1 billion + – in seven years next.

Instead, the usual (more or less) business will continue for at least another decade as the US military subsidizes the existence of the ULA by prioritizing an expensive missile. more to achieve the same result. The first Phase 2 LSAs are currently scheduled to start no earlier than (NET) 2022.

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