Blue Origin wins contract to power top secret Air Force space missions

Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs Colorado U.S

Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs Colorado U.S

The public-private Launch Service Agreements awarded almost $792 million to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which acquired defense and space contractor Orbital ATK in June. The awards are part of the DOD's coveted Launch Service Agreement or LSA. The service's goal is to move away from use of Russian-made RD-180 engines.

While the new prototypes are being developed, the Air Force statement said the department will continue to "competitively award commercial launch services contracts to providers who demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify and deliver launch systems and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver National Security Space satellites to orbit". Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems formerly Orbital ATK - will build the OmegA launch system, and ULA is slated to build its Vulcan Centaur launch system, both with initial launch capability by 2021. The Air Force has committed through 2024 a total of $500 million in OTA funds for Blue Origin, $792 million for Northrop Grumman and $967 million for ULA. Unlike the Atlas V rocket that the company now uses, the new rocket will uses engines made in the United States.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. The company is receiving $791.6 million to develop their Omega rocket.

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The United States Air Force stated that it's investing more into space launches to maintain the country's existing advantage in space development. Crewed spacecraft could also be launched, just like the predecessor Ares I and Liberty rockets, which were created to launch the Orion space capsule. ULA announced in September that its Vulcan rocket will be powered by Blue's BE-4 liquid rocket engines. Like the New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle that preceded it, the New Glenn's first stage is created to be reusable.

The company's development team is working on the program in Arizona, Utah, Mississippi and Louisiana, with launch integration and operations planned at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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