USAF Selects 8 Companies to Compete for Launch Contracts

The U.S. Air Force has selected eight companies to compete for $986 worth of launch contracts under its Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) program. The companies include:

  • Aevum Inc., Huntsville, Ala.;
  • Firefly Black LLC, Cedar Park, Texas;
  • Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Chandler, Ariz.;
  • Rocket Lab USA Inc., Huntington Beach, Calif.;
  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, Calif.;
  • United Launch Alliance, Centennial, Colo.;
  • VOX Space LLC., El Segundo, Calif.;
  • Xbow Launch Systems Inc., Auburn, Calif.;

“The contract seeks to capitalize on the emerging small launch providers while providing dedicated and primary launch services to the Department of Defense and other government agencies,” the U.S. Air Force said in announcing the selections.

“The program allows for the rapid acquisition of launch services to meet mission requirements for payloads greater than 400 pounds, enabling launch to any orbit within 12-24 months from task order award,” the announcement added.

The eight companies will be competitive for indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contracts under OSP-4.

China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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USAF Awards ULA Contract for Atlas V Launches

Atlas V launches Orbital ATK-designed satellites for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: ULA)

LOS ANGELES (DOD PR) — United Launch Services, Centennial, Colorado, has been awarded a $98,549,235 firm-fixed-price contract for Atlas V Completion launch services. 

This contract provides launch service completion for three National Security Space Launch Atlas V missions (two Air Force and one National Reconnaissance Office) previously ordered under contract FA8811-13-C-0003. 

Work will be performed at Centennial, Colorado; Decatur, Alabama; and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2020.  This award is the result of a sole source acquisition. 

Fiscal 2019 and 2020 procurement funds are being obligated at the time of award.  The Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.

USAF Awards ULA Contracts for 5 Delta IV Heavy Launches

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SMC PR) –– The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), awarded a sole source, five-year, $1.18 billion Firm-Fixed-Price (FFP) modification of the Delta IV Heavy contract (FA8811-19-C-0002), saving $455 million.

This modification was awarded Sept. 27 to United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Launch Operations Support (LOPS), in support of five NRO Launch (NROL) missions: NROL-44, NROL-82, NROL-91, NROL-68 and NROL-70.

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Delta IV Launches USAF GPS III Satellite

A ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the GPS III Magellan mission for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 at 9:06 a.m. ET. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug. 22, 2019 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the second Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite, designated Magellan, for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on August 22 at 9:06 a.m. EDT. This mission marked the 29th and final flight of the Delta IV Medium rocket and the 73rd GPS launch by a ULA or heritage vehicle.

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Delta IV Set to Launch GPS III Satellite on Thursday

Delta IV on the launch pad at Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., August 20, 2019 (ULA PR) — The ULA Launch Readiness Review was completed today and everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the GPS III Magellan mission for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

The mission is set to lift off on Thursday, Aug. 22 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 27-minute launch window opens at 9 a.m. ET.

The live broadcast coverage of launch will begin at 8:40 a.m. ET. Live launch updates and webcast are available at: www.ulalaunch.com.

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Astrobotic Selects United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur Rocket to Launch its First Mission to the Moon

Astrobotic of Pittsburgh has proposed to fly as many as 14 payloads to a large crater on the near side of the Moon. (Credit: Astrobotic)

Pittsburgh, Penn., and Centennial, Colo., Aug. 19, 2019 (Astrobotic/ULA PR)– Astrobotic announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket in a competitive commercial procurement to launch its Peregrine lunar lander to the moon in 2021.

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SNC Selects ULA’s Vulcan Centaur for Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Launches Beginning in 2021

Dream Chaser lands (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., August 14, 2019 (Sierra Nevada PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader, owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, selected United Launch Alliance (ULA) as the launch vehicle provider for the Dream Chaser® spacecraft’s six NASA missions to the International Space Station.  The Dream Chaser will launch aboard ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets for its cargo resupply and return services to the space station, starting in 2021.

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Blue Origin Files Pre-award Protest Over USAF Launcher Competition

Defense News reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has filed a pre-award protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the U.S. Air Force’s competition for new launch contracts.

Blue Origin is arguing that the current structure of the launch service provider competition may favor incumbents and will perpetuate a duopoly, according to a Blue Origin fact sheet obtained by Defense News.

“As drafted, the LSP [launch service provider] RFP [request for proposals] includes evaluation criteria that are ambiguous and fail to comply with federal procurement statutes and regulations. This subjectivity of the criteria makes it impossible to accurately respond to the RFP,” the fact sheet states.

“To ensure the process maximizes value for the American taxpayer and protects U.S. national security interests in space, it is essential that the Air Force structure the LSP RFP in a way that fosters a fair and level playing field for new entrants.”

The Air Force released a solicitation for the second phase of the LSP competition in May and intends to downselect to two launch providers in 2020. SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are all slated to vie for the series of contracts, which will be awarded over 2020 to 2024 for launches scheduled through 2027.

ULA Submits Proposal for U.S. Air Force’s Launch Services Competition

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

Vulcan Centaur rocket on schedule for first flight in 2021

Centennial, Colo., Aug. 12, 2019 (ULA PR) – At the United Launch Alliance (ULA) factory in Decatur, Alabama, production of the first Vulcan Centaur rocket continues, with shipment to the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida scheduled for late next year for processing in preparation for its first launch in 2021.

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ULA Receives USAF Contract for Delta IV Heavy Launch

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA) a contract modification worth $156.7 million for a Delta IV Heavy launch of a reconnaissance satellite in 2024.

“This modification provides for launch vehicle production services for National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Launch Mission Three, the last of three planned NRO launch missions under this contract,” USAF said in announcing the contract.

The modification increases the cumulative value of the contract for the three launches from $310,784,574 to $467,537,345. The $156.7 million is about half of what the third launch will cost.

The launch could be the final one for ULA’s Delta IV family of rockets. The company is phasing out use of the booster as it develops the Vulcan booster.

Commercial Crew Astronauts, Ground Teams Put Emergency Escape Procedures to Test

An emergency medical technician cares for an astronaut with simulated injuries during a joint emergency escape and triage exercise led by NASA, along with Boeing and United Launch Alliance, at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 24, 2019. The simulation is part of a series in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA led a joint emergency escape and triage simulation with Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on July 24 at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida in preparation for upcoming crew flights to the International Space Station. The exercise ranged from astronauts and support teams quickly escaping the launch pad to emergency personnel practicing rescue and life support procedures focused on the safety of the launch site teams.

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ULA Atlas V Launches U.S. Air Force Communications Satellite

An United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-5 mission for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 6:13 a.m. ET. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 8, 2019 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on August 8 at 6:13 a.m. EDT.

This marked the 80th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, which has successfully launched and precisely delivered the entire AEHF constellation on orbit. ULA has a track record of 100 percent mission success with 134 successful launches.

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NewSpace vs. Big Rocket: FAA’s Overhaul of Launch Regs Splits Industry

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

According to who you talk to, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed streamlining of launch and re-entry regulations is either a prudent step forward that provides much-needed flexibility while protecting public safety or a a confusing mess that’s a massive step backward.

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Atlas V Launch Set for Thursday

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 5, 2019 (ULA PR)) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

The launch is planned for Aug. 8 at Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Today’s forecast shows a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The two hour launch window begins at 5:44 a.m. ET.

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