GPS 2F-9 launch
A United Launch Delta 4 rocket lofts the GPS-2F9 satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 25, 2015. Credit: ULA video capture

WASHINGTON — Defense contactor Boeing and engineering services firm Arctic Slope Regional Corp. are the latest companies to win U.S. Air Force research contracts to study rocket technology.

The contracts, announced Jan. 25 on the Federal Business Opportunities website, are part of a broader effort to help end reliance on a Russian rocket engine used for launching national security satellites.

The Air Force will give $6.1 million to Boeing Network & Space Systems and $3.6 million to ASRC to perform rocket technology research not specified in the contract announcement.

The Air Force previously has indicated that initial research efforts would focus on reducing the cost of propulsion components and subsystems through the use of new materials and additive manufacturing.

The Air Force has now awarded nine contracts with a combined value of $26 million for the effort; the service previously said it planned to award six to eight contracts worth $500,000 to $8 million each, with a combined value of up to $35 million. Boeing’s $6.1 million award is the largest announced so far.

Boeing has a long history in rocket development, including the Delta 4 rocket currently used by United Launch Alliance.

Anchorage, Alaska-based ASRC has provided systems engineering and integration support work for the Air Force’s primary launch program.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.