U.S. Air Force Assigns Two Block Buy Launches

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force assigned two more missions — launches of a missile warning satellite and a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office — to its $11 billion block buy contract with United Launch Alliance, according to an Oct. 15 announcement from the service.

The missions, scheduled to launch in 2018, are the fourth satellite in the Space Based Infrared System, known as GEO-4, and the classified NROL-47.

SBIRS GEO-4 will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket with four solid-fuel strap-on motors, according Air Force documents.

NROL-47 will launch on a Delta 4 Medium core flanked by twin solid-rocket boosters and topped with a 5-meter fairing.

ULA’s sole-source block buy contract, awarded in 2013, includes production of 36 new Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rocket cores and launch services for vehicles purchased as long ago as 1998.

As part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress asked the Air Force to consider holding a competition to launch the SBIRS GEO-4 satellite, but the service said a competitive contract award would not have been completed in time to support the required launch date.