Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Blue Origin wins US Air Force contract for heavy orbital rocket

A rendering of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight A rendering of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight
Theresa Hayes | 12 October, 2018, 22:01

While the prototypes are being developed, the Air Force will continue to competitively award commercial launch services contracts to providers who demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify and deliver launch systems and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver National Security Space satellites to orbit.

The United States Air Force stated that it's investing more into space launches to maintain the country's existing advantage in space development.

The public-private partnerships will ensure "the USA maintains assured access to space, with at least two domestic launch service providers and without reliance on non-allied rocket propulsion systems".

Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance received contracts of $500 million and $967 million, respectively.

Northrop Grumman, which recently acquired Orbital ATK, will receive almost $800 million for its OmegA Launch system.

The $2 Billion contract by the Air Force, will help the 3 companies in their rocket development efforts. SpaceX was not listed among the award recipients. "We're making the most of the authorities Congress gave us, and we will no longer be reliant on the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine".

Blue Origin said in a statement following yesterday's announcement that it will build a launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, although it did not say what rockets would launch from the site. Blue Origin is developing a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. New Glenn is expected to reach initial launch capability in 2020. The company will also be providing the engines to power the first stage of ULA's Vulcan Centaur rocket.

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. Bezos tweeted a thank-you message Wednesday to the Air Force for its "confidence in the Blue Origin team". SpaceX recently announced plans to launch a Japanese billionaire and a half-dozen artists on a flight around the moon.