Posted inLaunch

Air Force awards $739 million in launch contracts to ULA and SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the NROL-76 payload for the NRO - sits on the launch pad April 29 at Launch Complex 39A. The rocket will have to wait at least 24 hours for liftoff after SpaceX scrubbed the launch planned for April 30 due to an issue with a first-stage sensor. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has divided $739 million in launch contracts between United Launch Alliance and SpaceX for six national security missions slated for 2021-2022.

The contracts, awarded under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, were announced Tuesday evening by Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

ULA will receive $441.76 million under a fixed-price contract to launch SBIRS GEO-5, SBIRS GEO-6 and Silent Barker, a classified space situational awareness mission.

SpaceX will receive $297 million  to launch AFSPC-44, NROL-85, and NROL-87.

NROL-85, NROL-87 and Silent Barker are classified missions for the National Reconnaissance Office. The Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit SBIRS GEO-5, SBIRS GEO-6 and AFSPC-44 are Air Force satellites.

This is the sixth competition under the current Phase 1A EELV procurement. The final request for proposals for these launches was released Jan. 31, 2018 and proposals were due April 16, 2018.

• NROL-85 will launch in fiscal year 2021 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
• NROL-87 will launch in fiscal year 2021 from Vandenber Air Force Base, California.
• Silent Barker will launch in fiscal year 2022 from Cape Canaveral.
• SBIRS GEO-5 will launch in fiscal year 2021 from Cape Canaveral.
• SBIRS GEO-6 is an option on the ULA contract with a possible launch in fiscal year 2022 from Cape Canaveral.
• AFSPC-44 will launch in fiscal year 2021 from Cape Canaveral.

“The competitive award of these EELV launch service contracts directly supports SMC’s mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation while maintaining assured access to space,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, SMC commander and program executive officer for space, said in a statement. “Phase 1A continues to enable the space enterprise to respond to the rapidly evolving operating environment.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...