As part of its long term launch agreement with SpaceX and ULA, the Space Force today awarded both companies contracts for six launches each, all to occur beginning in 2025.
According to the overall agreement, each company got five-year contracts to launch as many as 40 missions. ULA won 60% of the missions and SpaceX 40%. However, the delays to ULA’s Vulcan rocket will likely change those numbers:
In a report released June 8, the Government Accountability Office noted that the NSSL program office continues to order launch services from ULA and SpaceX amid concerns about Vulcan’s delays. “ULA delayed the first certification flight of the Vulcan launch system … to accommodate challenges with the BE-4 engine and a delayed commercial payload, nearly two years later than originally planned,” said GAO. “In the event that Vulcan is unavailable for future missions, program officials stated that the Phase 2 contract allows for the ability to reassign missions to the other provider.”
One of the reasons that ULA has not hurried its effort to make Vulcan reusable and more competitive with SpaceX is that is already has this guaranteed military launch commitment. It doesn’t need to be as competitive.
What needs to happen is a third or fourth company has to enter the market, giving the military other options. The military also has to cancel this long term launch agreement, which limits the number of companies it will do business with to just SpaceX and ULA. It would be much better to open the competition up to everyone. The ULA would be forced to compete.
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