ULA gets three launch contracts

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Capitalism in space: ULA last week won three launch contracts, two from the Air Force and one from NASA.

Both rockets are part of the existing EELV Block Buy between the Air Force and United Launch Alliance. The mission assignments were announced Friday by the Pentagon. The missions exceed the lift performance of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets that has been certified by the Air Force for national security payloads, making ULA the only provider available to execute these heavy launches.

In other government-launch news, NASA said last month that the second satellite in the next-generation era of U.S. civilian weather observatories will be launched atop an Atlas 5-401 rocket. The Atlas 5 beat out the Falcon 9 in a competition to win the rights to launch the Joint Polar Satellite System spacecraft No. 2 in 2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

For SpaceX to truly compete with ULA they need to get the Falcon Heavy flying.



  • LocalFluff

    Falcon 9 puts 23 tons in orbit, Atlas 5-551 does 19 tons. The “block buy” seems to be about 36 launches for $164 million each. $102 million more than for a falcon 9 list price. Maybe they’ve got to “use up” their 36 Atlas launches? Because price competitive it is not so much. Maybe SpaceX bid for higher than normal prices? Could be that Atlas’ remarkable reliability is crucial. It takes another hundred F9 launches to beat it.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Not another hundred. ULA’s combined reliability record is a composite of Atlas V, Delta IV, Delta IV Heavy and Delta 2. It’s currently somewhere near 120 consecutive successes. But Atlas V only accounts for about 70 of those. I think Ariane 5 has a slightly longer success streak at this point. Both records are eminently beatable, but it will take SpaceX at least two or three more years to do it.

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