Space travel is not going to stop anytime soon. The United States government is eager to launch more than 30 missions in the next five years for military and intelligence advancements and establish dominance beyond the earth.
The Department of Defense still chose ULA (United Launch Alliance) and Elon Musk’s private space exploration company SpaceX to be the agency’s partners in the second phase of the National Security Space Launch.
The terms of the contract are laid out in a public announcement posted by the DoD on their website last August 7. 60% of the overall number of launches will be given to ULA, which will receive a 337-billion dollar order and the other 40% to SpaceX with 317 billion dollars. The second phase of the mission is under the fiscal year 2022 which will start in October.
The two emerged victorious against their rival companies and also new candidates Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman in the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement bid in May 2019. Both space companies expressed their disappointments on the decisions after proposing competitive bids.
The contract lasts from 2022 to 2027, by which during those years both selected companies will be busy launching missions for the DoD and the National Reconnaissance Office to bring more satellites to space.
Phase 2 will be a significant turning point for the Pentagon to stop its reliance on the Atlas 5 rocket by ULA that uses the Russian RD-180 engine and begin its transition in utilizing commercial US-based space vehicles. By 2023, launches by Atlas 5 will be prohibited by law. However, ULA is coming up with a new vehicle called the Vulcan Centaur that uses the BE-4 engine by Blue Origin.
The initial 34 mission count is still subject to change depending on priorities and budget factors in the coming years. Air Force has not put its foot down so the plans can still change.