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Space Force adds three more rocket startups to its rapid launch program

Capitalism in space: The Space Force announced today that it has added the three smallsat rocket companies ABL, Astra, and Relativity to its program, dubbed OSP-4, to develop rockets that can be launched quickly at a moment’s notice.

OSP-4 is an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract for rapid acquisition of launch services. Vendors compete for individual orders, and have to be able to launch payloads larger than 400 pounds to any orbit within 12 to 24 months from contract award.

The OSP-4 contract vehicle was created in October 2019 and eight companies were selected then: Aevum, Firefly, Northrop Grumman, Rocket Lab, SpaceX., United Launch Alliance, VOX Space [Virgin Orbit], and X-Bow Launch.

There are now 11 vendors in the program that will compete for 20 missions over the next nine years. OSP-4 is authorized up to $986 million for launch contracts over that period.

Of these eleven companies, five have operational rockets (Northrop Grumman, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, and ULA) and five have announced plans to do their first orbital launch this year (Aevum, ABL, Astra, Relativity, and Firefly), with Astra’s first orbital flight scheduled for later this month. The schedule of the remaining X-Bow remains unknown.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • mkent

    The schedules of the remaining two (VOX Space and X-Bow) remain unknown.

    Vox has had three launches, two of them successful. The most recent was 30 June 2021.

  • mkent: Those were not orbital launches. I know of no announcements of when those orbital launches will occur. If you do please provide a source.

  • mkent

    Those were not orbital launches. I know of no announcements of when those orbital launches will occur. If you do please provide a source.

    They were orbital launches. The first, a failure, was a demo. The second and third (successful) launches orbited the Elana 20 and STP-27VPA payloads, respectively

  • mkent: VOX is Virgin Orbit! I had not realized they were using an obscure acronym that no one ever uses. How dumb. I will fix.

  • mkent

    Bob: Oh, yeah. Vox is the government services subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, much like ULS is the services subsidiary of ULA. You’ll sometimes see government press releases referring to ULS instead of ULA for the same reason.

  • Doubting Thomas

    X-Bow (Pronounced Crossbow) has ZERO info on it’s website but the two part SBIR for 2018 thru 2021 is worth 3.1 million.

    2018 SBIR says: X-Bow Launch Systems and its partners have developed a feasible concept to additively manufacture solid propellant. This additive manufacturing method, adapted from existing scaleable processes, will reduce the lifecycle cost and improve the overall responsiveness of the X-Bow Launch Systems vehicle. The innovation is to adapt breakthrough manufacturing processes developed for the Li-Ion battery industry. This technology will move to TRL 4 level during the Phase I effort; a rapid Phase II plan to move the Technology to the TRL 6/7 range has been identified….by incorporating this technology, the potential improvement to the performance of the X-Bow launch vehicle is ~30%.

    2020 SIBR says: This Additive Manufacturing (AM) method will address and lower affordability hurdles of a solid-propellant launch system, while at the same time increase its responsiveness. The AM method will handle all principle solid propellant constituents ( Fuel, Oxidizer, Binder, Cure Agent, Plasticizer and other additives. The AM method will be prototyped built and demonstrated through a Full Scale integrated ground test of a 30″ diameter small launch rocket motor.

    Betcha Navy, Army and Air Force might be interested in a up to 30 inch in diameter rocket motor with 30% improved capabilities given the steep decline in US solid rocket motor industrial base with ALL major manufacturers locked up in two big integrators, NG and LM.

  • Jeff Wright

    They better have good security! ITAR to me should mean solids. Give China Delta IV blueprints now? Big whoop. But solid tech should stay in the black as much as possible-thus no internet presence. Someone looks up ‘crossbow’ and they’d find Boeing’s Stratolaunch on stilts Quickreach era contraption.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Jeff – I agree on both your points. I think that’s why this company calls itself X-Bow to prevent confusion with Boeing “Quickreach” old stuff.

    I see solids use in quick response launches for urgent military space launches but these kinds of solid motors in diameters smaller than 30 inches may be very useful for tactical missiles as well. In any case, I am certain that ITAR will be fully in place for all this stuff.

  • Jeff Wright

    In the future, I see payloads shrouds an an all-solid autophage rocket tailored exactly to the 3D printed payload rising out of the same vat at the bottom of an autoclave-silo and hot launched…nothing to reuse as the rocket burns away as thrust….burning like a lit cigarette….to nothing….that’s where this is headed.

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