U.S. Air Force Awards $739 million Launch Contracts to ULA and SpaceX

Long exposure streak shot of a ULA Atlas V
rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4 missile tracking
surveillance satellite 
for the U.S. Air Force after lift off from Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:48 p.m.  EST, Jan. 19, 2018.
  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

Ken Kremer — SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM — 19 February 2019


CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  The United States Air Force has awarded a pair of launch service
contracts worth a total of $739 million to its two certified launch providers –
ULA and SpaceX for several national security launches each. 



“The United States Air Force’s
Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National
Reconnaissance Office (NRO), awarded two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
(EELV) launch service contracts today,” according to a Feb 19 Air Force
SMC statement.



Perhaps to keeping things
balanced and competition alive and healthy each company was awarded 3 national
security launch contracts.

SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying GPS III SV01 lifts off from
Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Dec. 23,
2018 at 8:51 a.m. EST. This first GPS to launch joins current GPS constellation
comprised of 31 operational spacecraft that  operate in MEO at an altitude of approximately
20,200 km (12,550 miles) in six planes
for USAF. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com
SpaceX was awarded a $297
million firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver AFSPC-44,
NROL-85, and NROL-87 to the intended orbit. 



ULA has been awarded a $441.76
million firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver SBIRS GEO-5,
SBIRS GEO-6, and SILENTBARKER to the intended orbit.  



ULA had a near monopoly on
national security launches with the Atlas V and Delta IV families of rockets until
the SpaceX Falcon 9 was certified by the USAF in 2015  and the Falcon Heavy in  2018 for EELV launches. 



Since then both firms have been
in a healthy competition and conducted multiple successful launches. 



Both contracts provide the U.S.
Government with a total launch solution for these missions, which includes
launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations, and
spaceflight certification, says the AF.



“The competitive award of
these EELV launch service contracts directly supports SMC’s mission of
delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while
maintaining assured access to space” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, SMC
Commander, and Program Executive Officer for Space, in a statement.



“Phase 1A continues to enable
the space enterprise to respond to the rapidly evolving operating
environment.”  



“SpaceX
is proud that the Air Force has chosen our company to support
our country’s defense with these critical national security space
launches and to continue providing the best value in launch with the proven
Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles, “ said
Gwynne Shotwell, President
and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX in a statement.



This is the sixth competition
under the current Phase 1A procurement strategy. These launch service contract
awards strike a balance between meeting operational needs and lowering launch
costs through reintroducing competition for National Security, says the AF. 


Here’s an outline of the
launches:



— NROL-85 will launch in
FY2021 from the Eastern Range.



— NROL-87 will launch in
FY2021 from the Western Range



— SILENTBARKER will launch in
FY2022 from the Eastern Range



— SBIRS GEO-5 will launch in
FY2021 from the Eastern Range



— SBIRS GEO-6 is an option on
the ULA contract with a possible launch in FY2022 from the Eastern Range



— AFSPC-44 will launch in
FY2021 from the Eastern Range 


Watch for Ken’s
continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin,
Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy
Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight
Facility, Virginia.



Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science
and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
–www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com



Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC
area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space
topics.

………….


Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events



Learn more about the upcoming/recent SpaceX Falcon 9 Nusantara Satu launch, USAF GPS 3-01, SpaceX Falcon 9/CRS-16 launch
to ISS,  NASA missions, ULA Atlas &
Delta launches, SpySats and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center,
Titusville
, FL, evenings: 



Feb
20/22
: “SpaceX Falcon 9 Nusantara Satu launch, Dragon CRS-16 resupply launch to ISS, SpaceX
Falcon GPS 3-01, SpaceX Falcon Heavy & Falcon 9 launches, upcoming SpaceX
Falcon 9 USAF GP3 3-01, NRO & USAF Spysats, SLS, Orion, Boeing and SpaceX
Commercial crew capsules, OSIRIS-Rex, Juno at Jupiter, InSight Mars lander,
Curiosity and Opportunity explore Mars, NH at Pluto, Kuiper Belt and more,”
Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings. Photos for sale





Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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