Bezos’ Blue Origin, Others Get $2.3 Billion in US Rocket Contracts

Jeff Bezos and New Glenn

In all, the new contracts amount to almost $2.3 billion in financial support for the three companies and set the stage for the rockets to become major players in future satellite launches, now that they have the backing of the USA military to one day launch national security payloads.

The public-private partnerships will ensure "the US maintains assured access to space, with at least two domestic launch service providers and without reliance on non-allied rocket propulsion systems". A joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. known as United Launch Alliance won the largest amount - $967 million - for work on its Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Northrop Grumman, which recently acquired Orbital ATK, will receive almost $800 million for its OmegA Launch system. "The funding provided through this agreement will be used to tailor our launch vehicle and associated facilities for national security space needs".

Interestingly, current launch provider SpaceX was not on the list. "I'm excited to announce these creative partnerships that directly support the Air Force's strategy to drive innovation and leverage commercial industry".

The launch service agreements "will facilitate the development of three domestic launch system prototypes and enable the future competitive selection", the Air Force said in a statement. The rocket will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket has been under development since 2014, and ULA expects the first launch of the new rocket to occur no earlier than mid-2020.

The army intends to select, in fine, the two companies to send their satellites into space, which will only use the american engines, so that the rocket Atlas that she uses now are equipped with engines of Russian.

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.

In a tweet, Bezos thanked the Air Force "for your confidence in the @BlueOrigin team and our #NewGlenn rocket".

United Launch Alliance in 2015 announced it plans to retire the Delta IV variant.

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