Four companies – Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) – recently submitted proposals for the U.S. Air Force's Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement (LSP) competition. Two of those companies will be awarded with up to 34 launches over a five-year period under the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. Formerly known as Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), NSSL will shift the U.S. away from using launch vehicle propulsion systems of Russian design.
The Department of Defense has established a selection strategy to ensure a smooth transition to a U.S. engine, while introducing competition, driving down costs and safeguarding continued assured access to space by preventing any capability gaps. Nearly one year ago, the Air Force held a competition and awarded three launch services agreements for public-private partnerships to develop launch vehicles to ULA, Blue Origin, and Northrop Grumman. Phase 2 is the next procurement in the Air Force's strategy and includes SpaceX – as the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle already has already been certified to fly national security missions.
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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.
Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at email@example.com.