Astronomy and Space News - Astro Watch: Air Force Awards $739 Million Launch Service Contracts

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Air Force Awards $739 Million Launch Service Contracts

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket stands ready to launch the Space Based Infrared Systems Geostationary-1 (SBIRS GEO-1) satellite for U.S. Air Force from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The United States Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), awarded two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch service contracts. 

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has been awarded a $297 million firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver AFSPC-44, NROL-85, and NROL-87 to the intended orbit. United Launch Alliance (ULA) has been awarded a $441.76 million firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver SBIRS GEO-5, SBIRS GEO-6, and SILENTBARKER to the intended orbit. 

Both contracts provide the U.S. Government with a total launch solution for these missions, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations, and spaceflight certification. 

“The competitive award of these EELV launch service contracts directly supports SMC’s mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, SMC Commander, and Program Executive Officer for Space. “Phase 1A continues to enable the space enterprise to respond to the rapidly evolving operating environment.” 

“ULA is honored to be selected to launch three missions in this procurement block buy,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “ULA’s commercially developed Atlas V rocket has been a workhorse for national security, science and commercial missions since 2002, launching 79 missions with 100 percent mission success and builds on the heritage of more than 600 Atlas program launches.”  

This is the sixth competition under the current Phase 1A procurement strategy. These launch service contract awards strike a balance between meeting operational needs and lowering launch costs through reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions.

-- NROL-85 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range.
-- NROL-87 will launch in FY2021 from the Western Range
-- SILENTBARKER will launch in FY2022 from the Eastern Range
-- SBIRS GEO-5 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range
-- SBIRS GEO-6 is an option on the ULA contract with a possible launch in FY2022 from the Eastern Range
-- AFSPC-44 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range

The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is Air Force Space Command's center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.

Credit: afspc.af.mil

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