- Space Force Command described a new “joint fund approach” for its next round of rocket launch procurement companies.
- “Rather than picking one stock, we pick two different approaches, because we thought that would best allow the government to pivot,” Col. Chad Meloni told the press at a briefing Friday.
- Space Force is taking a dual-track approach to purchasing about 70 launches, with more flexible requirements that will increase the number of companies that can compete.
Space Systems Command headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
US Space Force / Jose Lu Hernandez
The U.S. Army is preparing to buy another round of rocket launches from the companies next year, and Space Force Command says they are taking a new “mutual fund approach” to their acquisition strategy.
said Col. Chad Meloni, chief US Space ForceSpace Systems Command’s Procurement and Integration division launched at a news conference Friday.
Earlier this month, the Space Force began the five-year launch purchase process, under a lucrative program known as Phase III National Security Space Launches. Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin – for about 40 military missions, worth about $1 billion annually.
Source: SpaceX; Red Hopper | Orlando Sentinel | TNS | Getty Images
But with a number of companies bringing rockets to market, Space Force is splitting the NSSL third stage into two groups for about 70 launches. Track 1 is the new track, about 30 missions with fewer requirements and a more flexible bidding process that will allow companies to compete for launches as rockets debut over the coming years. Lane 2 represents the old approach, as the Space Force plans to select two carriers for about 40 missions that have the most demanding requirements.
“Several factors have strongly influenced our strategy, most notably the ever-growing commercial launch market, [and] “Over 50% increase in space missions for national security compared to what we had in Phase II,” Col. Doug Pentecost, deputy executive officer for programs for Space Systems Command, told the press.
Space Force Command has named several companies that can now compete in the dual-track operation, including Rocket Lab, Relativity, and ABL Space. Pentecost also noted that, “two months ago,” Space Systems Command signed a certification plan with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for its New Glenn rocket, as the company aims to demonstrate its ability to perform national security missions after three launches.
Pentecost emphasized the cost savings behind the competitive approach to purchasing launches. As for the most powerful rockets, Pentecost said ULA’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy and Vulcan rockets “are about half the cost” of the cost of Delta 4 Heavy rockets in the past decade, saving “nearly 50%” for the military to put “the largest satellites in it.” space.”
“We’re saving a lot of money on the high end, while still managing to benefit from commercial pricing on the low end,” Pentecost said.
Separately, the Space Force is closely monitoring the growing demand for commercial launches. Non-military satellite missions should be “on the very high side” of current expectations of limiting Space Force plans, Mellon said, either through availability of launch ranges or companies’ production capacity.
Already, companies are achieving unprecedented annual launch rates. Space Force Enterprises’ eastern cluster in Florida will see 92 launches in 2023, up from 57 in 2022, and its western cluster in California will see 42 launches in 2023, up from 19.
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