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ULA and SpaceX Awarded NSSL Phase 2 Contracts

Accepted submission by takyon at 2020-08-09 22:54:03

The U.S. Air Force Space Force [] has awarded National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 contracts [] to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX:

During a video call with reporters, William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said that United Launch Alliance will receive approximately 60 percent of the launch orders and SpaceX will receive the other 40 percent. Two other bidders, Northrop Grumman with its Omega rocket, and Blue Origin with its New Glenn vehicle, will not receive awards.

"The ability to meet our technical factors to do the mission is the most important thing," Roper said, in response to a question on the Air Force criteria. Secondary factors included past performance, the ability to work with small businesses, and total evaluated price. The military has nine reference orbits for large and complex payloads that these rockets must meet.

A tertiary factor: bidding a launch vehicle that has already been flown.

From 2022 to 2026, Roper said the Air Force expects to award a total of 30 to 34 contracts for missions. Assuming the 60-40 split in total contracts, this likely will result in contract values of about $3.5 billion for United Launch Alliance and $2.5 billion for SpaceX—but these are rough estimates and the US Air Force has not released specific amounts. These awards ensure that ULA and SpaceX will continue a long-running rivalry [].

As part of Friday's announcement, the Air Force said ULA has been assigned the USSF-51 and USSF-106 missions scheduled for launch in second quarter fiscal year 2022 and fourth quarter fiscal year 2022, respectively. SpaceX has been assigned USSF-67, scheduled for launch in fourth quarter fiscal year 2022. Task orders for the launch service support and launch service contracts will be issued to ULA for $337M and SpaceX for $316M for launch services to meet fiscal year 2022 launch dates. (This latter value suggests the SpaceX mission will likely fly on the Falcon Heavy rocket.)

The large initial award to SpaceX could also include funding for an extended payload fairing and vertical integration [].

See also: News Analysis | With Pentagon award, SpaceX joins the establishment []

Also at Space News [] and Teslarati [].

Previously: SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s []
Blue Origin Urges U.S. Air Force to Delay Launch Provider Decision []

Original Submission