Space Force assigns 21 national security missions to ULA and SpaceX

WASHINGTON — Space Systems Command announced Oct. 31 the assignment of 21 launch missions to United Launch Alliance and SpaceX as part of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 contract with the two companies. Won in 2020.

These assignments for fiscal year 2024 represent the fifth and final year of the Phase II contract. Of the 21 missions, ULA received 11 and SpaceX 10. These missions are expected to be launched within the next two to three years.

Over the five years of the Phase II contract, the Space Force will have ordered a total of 48 missions — far more than the 34 originally estimated — although only one mission has been launched so far.

“Under the Phase 2 contract, ULA and SpaceX have been committed partners, and our combined team remains committed to delivering critical assets to our warfighters as we complete this phase of the NSSL program and begin Phase 3 of the NSSL beginning in FY25,” he said. Col. Chad Mellon, senior materiel commander for mission solutions at Space Systems Command.

A total of 48 missions in the second phase

Of the 48 missions allocated for the second stage only USF-67 It was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in January 2023. ULA’s first second stage will be launched USF-51 On an Atlas 5 rocket, the mission is expected to take place no later than March 2024.

SpaceX’s upcoming NSSL missions include USSF-52 (which was awarded in 2018 and is not part of the second phase) and USF-124a Missile Defense Agency mission that is part of the Phase II contract.

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ULA’s new rocket, Vulcan Centaur, was selected by the Space Force to launch all second-stage missions, but the vehicle was hit by delays. Two certified Vulcan flights and the first NSSL Phase 2 mission are scheduled for the coming months. USF-106will fly sometime after the launch of the two certifications is complete.

ULA originally won 60%. Of the second phase missions and SpaceX 40%. Based on these latest missions, ULA has 54% and SpaceX has 46%.

The following 11 missions were assigned to ULA: GPS 3-9, NROL-73, NROL-56, STP-5, SILENTBARKER 2/NROL-118, GPS 3F-1, NROL-100, USSF-95, NROL-109, SDA T2TL-B, and USSF-25.

The following ten missions are assigned to SpaceX: SDA T1TL-F, SDA T1TR-A, USSF-57, NROL-77, SDA T1TR-E, GPS 3-10, USSF-75, SDA T2TL-A, SDA T2TL-C and USSF-70.

  • The NROL-77, NROL-73, NROL-56, NROL-109, and NROL-100 missions are assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office.
  • SDA launches are constellations of small satellites for the Space Development Agency’s low-Earth orbit constellation that include a transport layer of data communications satellites and a tracking layer of missile detection sensors.
  • USSF-57 will launch the first multi-billion-dollar next-generation geostationary infrared satellites designed for missile warning.
  • SILENTBARKER 2/NROL-118 is a joint NRO and Space Force mission to provide space domain awareness to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.
  • USSF-25 will launch the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) test rocket for the Thermonuclear Spacecraft for Agile Lunar Operations (DRACO).
  • USSF-95 will be the first launch of a prototype missile tracking satellite into medium Earth orbit.
  • STP-5 is a mission of the Space Force’s Space Test Program (STP). It will launch two satellites to support the Strategic Capabilities Office of the Ministry of Defense.
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