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Space Force awards SpaceX and ULA new launch contracts worth $2.5 billion

Space Force yesterday awarded both SpaceX and ULA new launch contracts worth $2.5 billion and totaling 21 launches over the next two to three years.

The final batch of assignments were split almost evenly, according to Col. Doug Pentecost, the deputy program executive officer of the Space Force’s Space Systems Command. ULA received 11 missions, valued at $1.3 billion, and SpaceX received 10 missions, valued at $1.23 billion.

Space Systems Command said the missions are scheduled to launch over the next two to three years. ULA, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will use its soon-to-debut Vulcan rocket for the 11 missions, while SpaceX will fly seven missions with its Falcon 9 rocket and three missions with its Falcon Heavy rocket.

For SpaceX this award is no surprise. The ULA contract is more puzzling. Supposedly the Space Force was not going to award any launch contracts for ULA’s new Vulcan rocket until it successfully launched twice and was certified by the military as operational. Yet, it has now awarded ULA this contract for Vulcan launches. Has the military awarded the contract on a contingency basis? What happens if Vulcan has a failure on one of its first two launches?

The Space Force’s present arrangement limits bidding for launches to just these two companies. If Vulcan fails will it open bidding to other companies, or will it transfer launches to SpaceX?

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • David Eastman

    This one really screams for some congressional questioning. I’d love to see what analysis they did, if any. I’d also like to see what ULA claimed in terms of availability. The odds of ULA being able to meet that launch schedule, much less meet that schedule in addition to their Kuiper launch schedule, are essentially zero. I’d also expect they’ll be losing money at that pricing.

  • GeorgeC

    If ULA had any payload related intellectual property and then sub contracted with Spacex for LEO placement then ULA could make 10%

    But seriously, gov/dod likes to have two sources so much that it will move heaven and earth to push ULA.

  • Steve White

    How interesting it would be if 1) ULA can’t launch and SpaceX volunteers to take on the missions, IF they can do so with StarShip and/or 2) SpaceX comes back and states that the Falcon Heavy missions could be done better / cheaper / faster with StarShip.

    Might this be a way to get the Space Force and DoD to lean on the FAA and the Fish & Wildlife Service?

  • Col Beausabre

    “Might this be a way to get the Space Force and DoD to lean on the FAA and the Fish & Wildlife Service?”

    No, they know what will happen to them and their careers if they dare try it.

    If they are lucky enough to not be cashiered, they will be commanding a unit in Alaska charged with shoveling snow.

  • Charles Lurio

    I noticed also that ULA has the contract for launching the DRACO NTR “test vehicle” (I’m being generous). Is this because someone still thinks that ULA is “safer”, with visions of depleted Uranium spewing over the landscape after a catastrophe.

    Just a passing thought,,,

  • Charles Lurio: An excellent fact I had missed. Thank you.

    The bottom line is that the military is not wrong to want to have two launch vehicles, and sadly ULA is right now its only other option that is even close to matching SpaceX. It is essentially paying for Jeff Bezos’s unwillingness to clean house four years ago when it became obvious that Bob Smith was not up to the job.

  • Jeff Wright

    If you want NTR–than means hydrogen–and that means Centaur/SLS.

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