The U.S. Air Force awarded three contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to develop launch system prototypes
The U.S. Air Force announcement on October 10, 2018 bestowed three contracts with a total worth of around US$ 2 billion to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance. The funding is focused on the development of competing launch system prototypes geared toward launching national security payloads. According to the contract, each company will receive an initial award of US$ 181 million. The Launch Service Agreements (LSA) include development of Blue Origin's New Glenn, Northrop Grumman's Omega, and ULA's Vulcan Centaur rockets. The awards are bestowed as part of cost-sharing arrangements called as Other Transaction Agreements (OTA), which the U.S. Air Force is signing with the three companies as a measure to ensure it has multiple competitors.
According to the agreement, the Air Force has committed a total of US$ 500 million in OTA funds for Blue Origin, US$ 792 million for Northrop Grumman, and US$ 967 million for ULA. The Elon Musk-led SpaceX received LSA award in 2017, however, it has failed to grab one this year. According to the Air Forceâ€™s official statement, the LSA is focused on facilitating the development of three domestic launch system prototypes and enabling the future competitive selection of two national security space launch service providers for future procurements. The U.S. Air Force is focused on developing a self-sustaining market in space and exploration as it had to previously depend on Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine. "Our launch program is a great example of how we are fielding tomorrow's Air Force faster and smarter," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. The article was published in SpaceNews on October 10, 2018.
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