Blue Origin Awarded $500 Million Air Force Contract

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Kent, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin is honored to enter into a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) partnership with the Air Force to leverage our commercial, heavy-lift New Glenn launch vehicle for national security space (NSS) missions. New Glenn is a single-configuration, operationally reusable launch vehicle powered by seven BE-4 liquefied natural gas rocket engines and offers significant performance margin for all NSS missions.

The LSA partnership enables rapid buildout of NSS-unique New Glenn infrastructure such as vertical payload integration capability and a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base as well as completion of NSS certification activities.

Blue Origin is proud to serve the NSS community and is committed to providing safe, reliable access to space for the nation.

For more information on this announcement, check out the Air Force’s press releaseBlue’s tweet and Jeff’s tweet.

Gradatim Ferociter!

U.S. Air Force Awards Launcher Development Contracts to ULA, Blue Origin & Northrop Grumman

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit: ULA)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded contracts worth more than $2.2 billion for launch vehicle development to United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

ULA of Centennial, Colo., will receive $967 million for the development of a launch system prototype of the Vulcan-Centaur booster. 

The agreement includes shared cost investment by ULA. The work is expected to be completed by March 31, 2025. 

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Northrop Gumman was awarded a contract worth $791,601,015 for development of the OmegA launch system. The company expects to to complete the work by Dec. 31, 2024. 

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has been awarded a $500 million contract for the development of the New Glenn launch system. The booster will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The work is expected to be completed by July 31, 2024.

Blue Origin to Expand Operations in Florida

Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

Blue Origin has yet to launch a rocket from Florida, but it is already planning an expansion of its operations in the Sunshine State, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

According to Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, the company is moving ahead with a $60 million facility in Exploration Park, the state-run complex near Kennedy Space Center where Blue Origin has already built a more than $200 million rocket factory, set to open early next year.

The new testing and refurbishment complex will create about 50 jobs with estimated annual wages of $70,000, plus benefits, according to Space Florida’s board of director meeting agenda. The board approved Space Florida to enter into an agreement with Blue Origin regarding the facility last month.

As part of the pact, the state will use tax dollars to reimburse Blue Origin up to $4 million in common infrastructure costs, such as roads and utilities….

The new testing and refurbishment facility will be central to Blue Origin’s commitment to reusability. The first stage of the New Glenn rocket, which provides the muscle for the launch, will be fully reusable, Blue Origin has said. It will land on a ship after separation from the second stage.

PLD Space, Airborne Systems North America sign to Develop Llauncher Recovery Systems

ARION 1 & 2 technology demonstration. (Credit: PLD Space)

PLD Space is developing a family of recoverable launch vehicles
Airborne Systems has almost 100 years of experience in the EDLS systems

ELCHE, Spain — October 3, 2018 (PLD Space PR) — Airborne Systems has developed a parachute recovery system for PLD Space to advance the development of their recoverable launch vehicle family (ARION 1 and ARION 2). Drawing on almost 100 years of experience with the design and development of Entry, Descent and Landing Systems (EDLS), Airborne Systems provide a solution consisting of a Drogue parachute Subsystem and a Main parachute subsystem.

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Blue Origin, OHB & MT Aerospace Sign Letter of Intent to Cooperate on Lunar Missions

Blue Moon lander (Credit: Blue Origin)

BREMEN, Germany, October 2, 2018 (OHB PR) — The OHB Group today signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for future cooperation with the U.S. aerospace company Blue Origin. The document was signed by Dr. Lutz Bertling and Kurt Melching, members of the Management Board of OHB SE, Hans J. Steininger, CEO of MT Aerospace and Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, during a bilateral meeting at the International Space Congress IAC in Bremen.

The aim is to explore the extent to which OHB, MT Aerospace and Blue Origin can work together across the Atlantic. The companies have partnered on a future Blue Moon mission to the lunar surface – Blue Origin’s lunar lander capable of bringing several metric tons of cargo to the Moon. The companies will collaborate on a payload on board Blue Origin’s reusable orbital rocket New Glenn. The use of these systems and possible cooperation will be the subject of in-depth discussions in the transatlantic dialogue.

“We are delighted to have gained Blue Origin as a dialogue partner who has established itself over the past few years as one of the leading companies in the aerospace industry,” says Lutz Bertling. “We are convinced that the mixture of the respective competencies will quickly lead to concrete approaches for further cooperation”.

ULA Selects Blue Origin BE-4 Engine for Vulcan Centaur Rocket

BE-4 engine firing (Credit: Blue Origin)

Centennial, Colo., Sept. 27, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) next-generation rocket – the Vulcan Centaur – is making strong progress in development and is on track for its initial flight in mid-2020. The Vulcan Centaur rocket design leverages the proven success of the Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles while introducing advanced technologies and innovative features.

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Report: Blue Origin Wins Engine Contract for ULA’s Vulcan Booster

BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Blue Origin has won a contract from United Launch Alliance to supply BE-4 engines for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle. An announcement is expected today.

The decision would be a defeat for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has been developing the AR1 engine.

The long-term, potentially multibillion-dollar agreement could provide a boost to Blue Origin’s eventual goal of becoming a major military launch provider itself. The company plans to use the same engines to power its own heavy-lift launcher, called New Glenn, which is currently under development.

Competition in the satellite-launch business is heating up. The Air Force is considering how to divvy up hundreds of millions of federal dollars to develop a fleet of lower-cost, more versatile rockets. Blue Origin, United Launch, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Innovation Systems unit, formerly known as Orbital ATK, are all in the running. The Air Force is preparing to shortly announce the first-stage winners….

Negotiations between United Launch and Blue Origin dragged on for months, with both sides bargaining hard over price, delivery schedules and production reliability. Other hurdles, according to two people familiar with the details, included United Launch’s concerns about relying on a prospective rival for its most important engine supply. It couldn’t be learned what provisions were hammered out.

Blue Origin beat out Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., which had sought to sell its AR1 engine as the primary propulsion system for the Vulcan. A spokesman for Aerojet, which previously was picked to provide smaller, upper-stage engines for the ULA rocket, said “we are committed” to the AR1 engine and “will have a test-ready engine in 2019.” The spokesman also said that regardless of the decision, Aerojet’s “liquid engine business is thriving,” and the AR1 remains an option for possible smaller launch vehicles on the drawing board.

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Selects 15 Space Technologies for Tests

New Shepard booster over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 15 promising space technologies to be tested on commercial low-gravity simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons and suborbital rockets. These flights will help advance technologies for future spaceflight, taking them from the laboratory to a relevant flight environment.

During an Aug. 28 visit to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, where the Flight Opportunities program is managed, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency will focus on funding more of these payload flights in the future.

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The Adventures of SpaceShipTwo: Inverted Flight, Wonky Gyros & an Impatient Billionaire

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Nicholas Schmidle has an interesting profile of Virgin Galactic test pilot Mark Stucky in the New Yorker that sheds some light on what’s been going on at Richard Branson’s space company. I’ve excerpted some interesting passages below.

If you’ve been watching the videos of  SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity‘s first three powered flights and thinking to yourself, Gee, it looks like that thing really wants to roll…well, you’d be right. Here’s an account of the first flight on April 5.
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NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program Adds New Flight Provider to its Roster

One of Raven Aerostar’s Super Pressure Balloons. (Credit: Raven Aerostar)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads for demonstration on commercial suborbital reusable platforms. The list includes a new flight provider: Raven Aerostar.

In addition, three companies currently working with Flight Opportunities renewed their IDIQ contracts:

  • Blue Origin Texas, LLC, Van Horn, Texas
  • Up Aerospace Inc., Littleton, Colorado
  • World View Enterprises, Inc., Tucson, Arizona

Based in Sioux Falls, SD, Raven Aerostar specializes in long-duration and navigational stratospheric missions through its fleet of high-altitude balloons.

Through these new NASA awards, selected companies will receive a five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract for integration and flight services.

To learn more, read the full NASA news release.

NASA Funds Studies on Commercializing Earth Orbit

The Cygnus cargo craft slowly departs the space station after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In an ongoing effort to foster commercial activity in space, NASA has selected 13 companies to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-range opportunities for the International Space Station.

The studies will assess the potential growth of a low-Earth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight. The portfolio of selected studies will include specific industry concepts detailing business plans and viability for habitable platforms, whether using the space station or separate free-flying structures. The studies also will provide NASA with recommendations on the role of government and evolution of the space station in the process of transitioning U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to non-governmental enterprises.

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NASA Announces New Partnerships to Develop Space Exploration Technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.

Selections are based on the agency’s third competitive Tipping Point solicitation, and have a combined total award value of approximately $44 million – a significant investment in the U.S. space industry.

A technology is considered at a “tipping point” if investment in a ground or flight demonstration will result in significantly maturing the technology and improving the company’s ability to bring it to market.

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NASA Selects US Firms to Provide Commercial Suborbital Flight Services

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.

Through these new awards, selected companies will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for integration and flight services, drawing from a pool of commercial space companies. The five-year contracts have a combined potential contract value of $45 million. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.

The selected companies are:

  • Aerostar International (Raven Aerostar), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Blue Origin Texas, LLC, Van Horn, Texas
  • Up Aerospace Inc., Littleton, Colorado
  • World View Enterprises, Inc., Tucson, Arizona

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is charged with maturing crosscutting technologies to flight readiness status for future space missions. The agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, manages the Flight Opportunities Program for STMD.

During the coming year, STMD will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration. It continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology thrust areas. These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration.

For more information on the program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/flightopportunities

Smith: A New Era in Space is Upon Us

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Chairman Lamar Smith of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee gave remarks today at the Hudson Institute’s discussion of the New Era in Space. Smith’s remarks touched on the growing private sector presence in space and how the government can effectively collaborate with industry while spurring investment and innovation.

Additionally, Smith explained how two Committee bills, H.R. 5346, the Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act, and H.R. 6226, the American Space SAFE Management Act, are designed to enable the Department of Commerce to be responsible for carrying out the supervision of space activities. “The Commerce Department is best equipped to help entrepreneurs and innovators build companies and succeed in business,” Smith said.

The full text of the remarks, as prepared for delivery, is below:

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