Science & Nature

Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, ULA win Space Force contracts for rocket know-how initiatives

by Sandra Erwin —

Vulcan Centaur launch car rendering. Credit: United Launch Alliance

The awards made by the Space Enterprise Consortium are for prototypes that will likely be collectively funded by the federal government and the contractors

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance had been chosen to take part in know-how improvement initiatives to advance rocket engine testing and launch car higher phases, the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command introduced Sept. 24.

The awards made by the Space Enterprise Consortium are for prototypes that will likely be collectively funded by the federal government and the contractors underneath partnerships often called OTAs, or different transaction authority.  The contracts had been break up between present nationwide safety launch suppliers SpaceX and ULA, and new entrants Blue Origin and Rocket Lab that may compete in 2024 for the subsequent spherical of nationwide safety launch service contracts. 

  • Blue Origin will obtain $24.3 million for cryogenic fluid administration for its New Glenn rocket’s second stage.
  • Rocket Lab will get $24.3 million for higher stage improvement of its future launch car Neutron. 
  • SpaceX will get $14.4 million for testing applied sciences for its next-generation Raptor engine: fast throttling and restart testing; liquid methane specification improvement and testing; and combustion stability evaluation and testing.
  • ULA will get $24.3 million for uplink command and management for Centaur 5, the higher stage of the corporate’s new rocket Vulcan Centaur.

The SpEC consortium solicited proposals for these initiatives on May 11. 

“We are excited to associate with trade to advance transformational house entry capabilities,” stated Col. Rob Bongiovi, director of Space Systems Command’s Launch Enterprise.

The Raptor testing contract awarded to SpaceX was funded by a $15 million appropriation that Congress added to the 2021 protection funds for next-generation engine testing. “This prototype effort will advance state-of-the-art in rocket engines, together with new applied sciences to allow house entry and mobility,” the SpEC consortium stated. 

The different three initiatives for higher stage know-how are funded in fiscal 12 months 2022. The Space Systems Command stated the contracts will likely be awarded early subsequent 12 months pending congressional approval of the 2022 funds request.

These are “orbital switch prototype initiatives to enhance house entry functionality for nationwide safety launch programs,” the SpEC stated. “Anticipated advantages embrace lowering prices by permitting procurement of decrease power launch car configurations, and bettering mass-to-orbit functionality” specifically for trajectories past geosynchronous orbit.

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