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ULA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman submit bids for national security launch procurement contract

ULA and SpaceX currently launch the bulk of U.S. national security satellites while Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin are looking to break in.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, third from left, discusses the Air Force launch competition during Satellite 2019. Also pictured: ULA's Tory Bruno, left, Blue Origin's Bob Smith, right, and Northrop Grumman's Kent Rominger, second from right. Credit: Brian Berger/SpaceNews

WASHINGTON — United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin have submitted their proposals for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. Bids were due Aug. 12.

The stakes could not be higher for the field of competitors vying to be one of the two companies that the Air Force will select in 2020 to split 60/40 as many as 34 missions for military and intelligence community between 2022 and 2026.

ULA and SpaceX currently launch the bulk of U.S. national security satellites while Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin are looking to break in. All are developing brand-new rockets and upgrading existing vehicles for the competition. SpaceX’s Falcon is the only launch vehicle offered for Phase 2 that is flying today and has already achieved national security space certification.

“We submitted our purpose-built Vulcan Centaur rocket for the U.S. Air Force’s Phase 2 Launch Services competition. It is so exciting to see the first flight vehicle coming together at our factory,” ULA’s president and CEO Tory Bruno said in a news release on Monday.

SpaceX also confirmed it will be competing in Phase 2. “SpaceX means to serve as the Air Force’s long-term provider for space launch, offering existing, certified and proven launch systems,” SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said.

Blue Origin submitted its proposal on Friday, a company official confirmed. Blue Origin on Monday also filed a “pre-award” protest with the Government Accountability Office arguing that the procurement strategy is biased in favor of incumbent companies and that the competition is not “fair and open.”

A spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman confirmed that the company also submitted a bid for Phase 2.

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...