WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver a $1.1 billion contract to build seven rockets to launch Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites, according to a June 26 announcement by the Defense Department.

The intermediate-class rockets are part of the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program to launch satellites to space. ULA, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, is prime contractor on that program and the award was made on a sole-source basis.

The newly ordered launch vehicles include: four Atlas 5 rockets of various configurations, two each for the Air Force and NRO; and three Delta 4s, two for the Air Force and one for the NRO.

About half of the money, $525 million, will be awarded during 2013, the release said. Work is expected to be completed by 2015, the announcement said.

Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...