The United States (US) Air Force is set to award billions of dollars’ worth of contracts to aerospace companies SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) in lieu of its National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program Michael Sheetz of CNBC reports.
Now in its second phase, it is a part of the whole US military’s efforts to assure that the United States Department of Defense accesses to space. It also aims to provide the Federal government and other concerned agencies the payloads they may ask for.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX was able to grab the contract along with ULA, besting other bidders including Blue Origin of Jeff Bezos and Northrop Grumman, headed by its CEO Kathy Warden.
The contract awards nearly three dozen launches that will be conducted in a span of five years, from 2022 to 2026. ULA was able to win 60% of the contract while rest will be accomplished by SpaceX.
The two are no doubt the leaders when it comes to providing launch providers to the US government for its national security missions – with each launch costing over $100 million. Both SpaceX and ULA won contracts amounting to over $12 billion starting 2012 up to last year.
As leaders in the industry, the two companies are conducting their own research and development of its next-generation rockets.
SpaceX is currently working on its Starship rocket while it boasts its fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets respectively. ULA wants to rid itself of its dependence on Russian manufactured rocket engines with its newest Vulcan rocket.
In 2018, Blue Origin, ULA, and Northrop Grumman won development contracts from the US Air Force with a combined worth of almost $2.3 billion with ULA winning a big chunk of it worth $967 million.
Not everybody is winners in the latest round of bidding and Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman know it.
Northrop Grumman, whose OmegA rocket product primarily targeted for military use, is open to having their rocket used in other purposes. However, with this recent loss, may halt further development of its rocket.
On the other hand, Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket will continue its development whether the company will win future NSSL launch program bids or not.