Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

Blue Origin wins US Air Force contract for heavy orbital rocket

Blue Origin wins US Air Force contract for heavy orbital rocket

Blue Origin's New Glenn launch system, United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur launch system and Northrop Grumman's OmegA launch system were winners the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program Wednesday, a highly sought-after award that will allow the companies to complete development of their boosters for the three rockets.

"These awards are central to the Air Force goal of two domestic, commercially viable launch providers that meet National Security Space requirements".

Blue Origin also plans to use some of the money to create a brand new launch site out of the Vandenberg Air Force Base. Blue Origin is developing a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Vulcan's first stage engine compartment can be jettisoned in flight for recovery, refurbishment and re-use. "We're making the most of the authorities Congress gave us, and we will no longer be reliant on the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine".

The service will award other 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", the release said.

The contracts went to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin. Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK Inc., was awarded $792 million and will manufacture its OmegA Launch System.

"Thanks to the US Air Force for your confidence in the team Blue Origin and our rocket NewGlenn", tweeted Jeff Bezos. New Glenn is expected to reach initial launch capability in 2020. The company is receiving $791.6 million to develop their Omega rocket.

Named after Astronaut John Glenn, "New Glenn" is a single-configuration, operationally reusable launch vehicle - built right here in Kent - powered by seven BE-4 liquefied natural gas rocket engines, and it offers significant performance margin for all NSS missions.

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