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.