Northrop Grumman Awarded $792 Million Launch Services Agreement from US Air Force

Rosemary Collier
October 13, 2018

The awards go to billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin; United Launch Services, part of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) joint venture between Boeing Co BA.N and Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N ; and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems NOC.N .

In all, the new contracts amount to almost $2.3 billion in financial support for the three companies and set the stage for the rockets to become major players in future satellite launches, now that they have the backing of the USA military to one day launch national security payloads.

The funding awards, however, are not necessarily a guarantee that these companies will win launch contracts in the future, the Air Force said in a statement.

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Under the terms of the contract, the United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and Blue Origin, will work towards developing rockets capable of taking national security satellites into orbit around the earth.

The three contracts are part of a Department of Defense 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.

uAn artist's impression of a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket blasting off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket has been under development since 2014, and ULA expects the first launch of the new rocket to occur no earlier than mid-2020.

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Blue Origin's New Glenn Rocket. The high-level specifications for the vehicle were publicly announced in September 2016. Its first stage will be powered by seven BE-4 engines that are also being designed and manufactured by Blue Origin. "Our new OmegA rocket leverages technologies, capabilities and flight experience gained from decades of successful rocket launches, making it an affordable and reliable choice for national security missions".

Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, central to the company's ambitions to reach the moon, will ferry defense payloads into space for the Air Force.

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