Blue Origin, SpaceX and ULA have won launch contracts worth $5.6 billion from the Pentagon

Washington – The U.S. Space Force has selected Blue Origin, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance for the National Security Space Launch Phase III launch services program. The Pentagon announced on June 13 that the three companies had won contracts potentially worth $5.6 billion over five years.

The three companies will compete for orders during the contract period beginning in fiscal years 2025 through 2029. Under the NSSL program, the Space Force orders individual launch missions up to two years in advance. It is expected that at least 30 NSSL Lane 1 missions will be contested over the five years.

The Phase 3 contract is a big win for Blue Origin, the first time the space company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos has been selected to launch sensitive national security satellites. SpaceX and ULA — a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture — have secured national security launch contracts under the Phase 2 program that began in 2020.

Blue Origin had already competed for the Phase 2 contract and unsuccessfully protested the decision.

New Glenn is targeting a first launch this year

Blue Origin’s New Glenn heavy-lift reusable rocket — which has been in development for nearly a decade — is undergoing testing and is expected to attempt its first orbital flight later this year.

The NSSL Phase III program is organized into two “tracks”. Track 1 is for less demanding launches to low Earth orbit, while Track 2 is for heavy-lift rockets capable of delivering payloads to nine reference orbits, including some of the most demanding national security missions.

The selection of Blue Origin, SpaceX and ULA for Lane 1 contracts confirms that no other launch providers meet the criteria.

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“As we expected, the pool of winners is small this year because many companies are still fully maturing their capabilities,” said Dean. Gen. Christine Banzenhagen, executive director of the Assured Space Access Program, said in a statement. “Our strategy has taken this into account by making opportunities available every year, and we expect competition and diversity to increase as we continue to develop new providers and systems.”

The next opportunity for service providers to launch will be in the first quarter of fiscal year 2025.

The Space Force earlier this year awarded Blue Origin nearly $18 million for National Security Space Launch Phase III “Early Integration Studies” to evaluate the capabilities of the New Glenn rocket.

As part of the Phase 3 contract, Blue Origin will receive $5 million to conduct an initial capabilities assessment to ensure its mission, the Space Force said. Space

The first Phase 3 Track 1 mission command opportunity will be for seven US Space Force Space Development Agency launches and one for the National Reconnaissance Office. “Any launch provider under the prime contract may apply for launch service mission orders provided they have completed a successful orbital launch prior to the proposed date,” the Space Force said in a June 13 statement.

Space Force wants diversity in launch service providers

The goal of the third phase of NSSL is to increase competition and reduce launch costs for national security payloads while maintaining assured access to space through redundant capabilities, Space Force officials said.

“NSSL’s Phase III Launch Services procurement contracts provide the opportunity to integrate the latest domestic commercial innovations into our launch program as soon as they become available,” said Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration.

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Space Force plans to select Lane 2 providers this fall. “The government intends to award up to three contracts to procure launch service for Phase 3 of Track 2 of the NSSL,” Space Systems Command said. Track 2 contracts will include missions that require full mission assurance using NSSL-certified launch vehicles. The payloads included in Track 2 require launches to more stressful orbits than Track 1, necessitating higher-performance launch systems.

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