An independent assessment of rocket engine development delivered to a House committee last week has concluded that Blue Origin remains well ahead of Aerojet Rocketdyne despite a recent testing setback.
The companies signed the contract Thursday with the European Space Agency, which procures the satellites on behalf of the EU.
Rep. Mike Rogers says Air Force "better shape up or they’ll figure out who is in charge here," while Gen. David Goldfein says "now’s not the time to build seems and segregate and separate."
If made law, the move would require setting up a Space Corps organization by Jan. 1, 2019.
Gen. John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said the nation must take risks and learn from what doesn't work, both in space and with nuclear deterrence.
The Air Force declined to discuss how SpaceX got the contract and if it was sole-sourced.
Long delays with programs could put the U.S. behind adversaries in the increasingly contested space environment, said Maj. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Air Force Space Command.
It will be the fifth mission for the Air Force's advanced spaceplane, and the first time it hasn't lifted off aboard a ULA rocket.
Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch said Monday he is working with the Space and Missile Systems Center to figure out the next step after Blue Origin lost a set of engine powerpack hardware during a test.
The announcement adds to the $1.86 billion Lockheed won in 2014 to build the fifth and sixth geostationary satellites for the Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System.
Air Force leaders didn't definitively say if they'll cut off funding, but said they're more interested in launch services than engines.
The service is looking to shore-up missile warning and GPS constellations.
The Air Force expects a replacement for the Delta 4 Heavy rocket will be ready by 2023, with one of several vehicles under development able to take its place.
Separating space operations from the Air Force would hamper the service’s efforts to address threats in orbit, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said.
DARPA program is an opportunity for the Pentagon to let industry lead experimental technology rather than try to adhere to strict requirements guidelines.
The White House has not said whether it will keep the position, and there was speculation it would be replaced with a different leadership plan.