The Trump Administration and the House Armed Services Committee are on a collision course over four space- and rocket-related provisions in the fNational Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018).
Specifically, the administration is objecting to the following provisions:
the establishment of a separate space corps within the U.S. Air Force (USAF);
limitations on the funding of new rocket engines for the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program;
a prohibition on the Pentagon procurement of transponder services on commercial satellites launched on Russian rockets; and,
requirements that the Defense Department find multiple suppliers for individual components of solid rocket missile systems.
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Air Force released a Request for Proposal for an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service supporting the Space Test Program (STP) 3 mission scheduled to launch in June 2019. The draft RFP was released on Aug. 19 to obtain industry feedback to inform the final RFP. After extensive industry engagements, the final RFP was released on Sept. 29 with proposals due back to the Air Force no later than Dec. 2 in accordance with the solicitation instructions.
The Air Force will award a firm-fixed price contract that will provide the government with a total launch solution including launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations for the STP-3 mission. The Air Force’s acquisition strategy for this solicitation achieves a balance between mission success/operational needs, and lowering launch costs, through reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions.
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Assessing Data on Worldwide Launch Market to Inform New Acquisition Strategy Full Report (PDF) Government Accountability Office GAO-16-661R Published: Jul 22, 2016
What GAO Found
Five countries outside of the United States have operational space launch capabilities: the European Union, Russia, India, Japan, and China. Most of these countries each primarily depend on a single launch provider for launches of a specific capability within their country to meet their civil government and military launch requirements. The United States is unique in that it relies on more than two launch providers–including United Launch Alliance, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), and Orbital ATK — with some overlapping capabilities to meet its own civil and military needs.
In October 2014, NASA engineers were deeply worried about Orbital Sciences Corporation’s upcoming Orb-3 commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
An Antares booster was set to send a Cygnus cargo ship loaded with 2,215 kg (4,883 lb) of supplies to astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory. It would be the third of eight Cygnus flights to the station under a Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract worth $1.9 billion.
PRESENTATION TO THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE UNITED STATES SENATE
Subject: Military Space Launch
Witnesses: Honorable Frank Kendall III Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
Honorable Deborah Lee James Secretary of the Air Force
JANUARY 27, 2016
Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, and distinguished Members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss how we deliver national security space capabilities to the nation’s warfighters and intelligence community (IC). These capabilities provide our nation decisive advantage in situational awareness, precision navigation and targeting, and command and control, and without assured access to space via reliable launch services, that advantage would be at risk.
DULLES, Va., January 14, 2016 (Orbital ATK) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced today it was awarded a $47 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Systems Directorate for the development of a solid rocket propulsion system prototype to support the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program for national security space missions. The Air Force award includes options for additional scope, valued at up to $133 million. The company will also contribute additional development funds to the program.
CENTENNIAL, Colo., (ULA PR) – After another year with 100 percent mission success, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) team capped off the year with the launch of the OA-4 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Dec. 6 and prepares for its 10th anniversary and highest operations Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) tempo to date in 2016.
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 25, 2015 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the U.S. Air Force have demonstrated a commitment to innovation and continuous improvement through implementation of Off-site Vertical Integration (OVI) of several structural elements and the Centaur upper stage for the Atlas V launch vehicle. OVI significantly reduces the number of lifting operations performed at the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral, taking them off the critical path and allowing for reduced time between launches. Relocating these operations to the Delta Operations Center (DOC), an indoor facility, also mitigates risk of weather-related processing delays.
The U.S. Air Force said on Wednesday it would phase out a major subsidy it pays United Launch Alliance (ULA)
Air Force Space Command Commander General John Hyten said acquisition officials were working on a plan to to phase out the infrastructure support contract, which he said was initially put in place to protect “a very fragile industrial base.”
He said it was not possible to have a fair competition with the contracts in place, backing an argument often made by privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, which is vying for some of the launch contracts now carried out by ULA.
In prepared testimony between the House Armed Services Committee last week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell called for an end to the contract.
Eliminate payments—more properly called subsidies—under the EELV Launch Capability (ELC) contract line items that exclusively support the incumbent provider and properly account for such payments for any competitive solicitations in the interim to ensure a fair and level playing field, especially since these funds do not contribute to the true nature of assured access to space. The Department and this Committee have called fo r real, meaningful competition. That means eliminating the unfairness. All we seek is the right to compete in a fair competition. Just like reliance on the RD-180 engine, it is time for these subsidy payments to the incumbent to come to an end.
Through the EELV Launch Capability, initially referred to as “assured access to space” payments, the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) pay ULA approximately $1 billion per year through distinct cost-plus-incentive-fee contract line items. These payments cover most of ULA’s fixed costs — for example, launch infrastructure, systems engineering and program management, launch operations, mission integration, base and range support costs, transportation costs, capital depreciation, and non-recurring engineering to name a few — for “up to eight launches” per year. These payments are in addition to the firm-fixed-price that ULA charges for EELV Launch Services (ELS) for each launch ordered through the block buy contract.
SpaceX has filed a 36-page appeal of the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award a 36-core launch vehicle contract to United Launch Alliance. The company is seeking to set aside the contract and open 22 single-core launches to competition for which it claims it is qualified to bid on.
You can download the full lawsuit: 1_14-cv-00354-SGB. I’ve excerpted key portions of the lawsuit below.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senator McCain PR) – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today sent two letters regarding the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program – a vital $70 billion national security space-launch program that, without competition, has been plagued by exponential cost growth and schedule delays.
The first letter is to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James requesting additional information about her recent testimony regarding the EELV program before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 10, 2014, and conveying concern about the apparently incomplete and incorrect nature of some of that testimony.
The second letter is to the Department of Defense Inspector General Jon T. Rymer requesting that his office investigate recent developments regarding the EELV program.
ARLINGTON, Va., April 16, 2014 (ATL PR) — ATK has reached agreement on a $178 million contract award as part of the Air Force’s Phase 1 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) buy from United Launch Alliance (ULA). The order value includes hardware for both of the current United States Air Force EELV launch vehicles, the Atlas V and Delta IV. The initial contracting period includes large composite structures with deliveries commencing in AFY14 and continuing into early AFY18. The option period includes hardware deliveries in AFY17 through AFY19.
Space Newsreports that seven U.S. Senators are pushing to open more U.S. Air Force launches to competition from SpaceX and other providers:
In an April 1 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the senators said the decision to shrink the number of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle missions eligible for competition to seven from 14 should be “immediately reviewed.”
Madison, Wisc. (ORBITEC PR) — Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC™) recently conducted several key rocket engine technology demonstrations at its large engine test facility in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Under observation by representatives from both NASA and the US Air Force, ORBITEC successfully completed a series of tests on its Vision flight rocket engine that enhances the maturation of ORBITEC’s advanced technology acoustic igniter , vortex/cold wall combustion chamber, and carbon-carbon lightweight nozzle extension technologies. The Vision engine will be flight-demonstrated later this year launched out of Mojave, CA.
Space News has a Q&A with Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello, who is leading efforts to help rebuild the Sunshine State’s aerospace industry as NASA winds down its space shuttle program. DiBello expressed confidence that the thousands of jobs being lost can be replace by diversifying away from NASA toward a broader base that will include DOD, commercial space, aviation, and other high-technology areas where the state’s highly skilled workforce can thrive.Â He is optimistic about attracting more launches to Cape Canaveral, which has been hit hard to low-cost foreign competition.
Hasnâ€™t the commercial space industry left Florida?
If we only look at it as commercial satellite launch, the nation has lost that business to France and to Russia and others. And I believe that can be brought back, I clearly do. And I think weâ€™re going to have to get very competitive, not only in the satellite construction industry but in the launch industry.
I think you can increase capacity to launch Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, but the real future lies in the introduction of a whole new class of launch vehicles that can be introduced at competitive pricing. (more…)