SpaceX, ULA are the big winners for US national security launches

The US Department of Defense has selected its two major rocket corporations for getting satellites into orbit in the years forward: long-time navy launch supplier United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX. ULA will obtain 60 p.c of the division’s satellite tv for pc launch contracts, whereas SpaceX will obtain 40 p.c.

The two corporations beat out rivals Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin to launch DoD missions between fiscal years 2022 and 2027. This is a big prize, as every particular person launch can cost over $100 million. The DoD hasn’t dedicated to a precise variety of launches over that five-year interval, however they’ve awarded $316 million to SpaceX and $337 million to ULA “to meet fiscal year 2022 launch dates”, according to a DoD statement.

“This was an extremely tough decision and I appreciate the hard work industry completed to adapt their commercial launch systems to affordably and reliably meet our more stressing national security requirements,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise, said in a statement.

There’s a milestone right here, too: the finish of this program’s use of the Atlas V rocket. That rocket, made by ULA, depends on the Russian RD-180 engine. But the Russian engines have been a political minefield ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014; that 12 months, NASA even suspended contact with Russia. Since then, the DoD has been trying to phase out its reliance on Russian know-how. In 2018, it awarded ULA, Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin a mixed $2 billion in contracts to develop next-generation rockets.

SpaceX wasn’t joyful about that award — in 2019 they sued the government over the contract. The firm argued the award gave their opponents a leg up in getting awarded the launches.

In the finish, the DoD handed over automobiles designed by Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman. Instead, they picked SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, which have confirmed themselves in flight. They additionally selected ULA’s future Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is currently set to make its first flight in 2021.

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