Space Force to launch at least 80 missions under NSSL Phase III

By Apurva Minchekar / July 24, 2023 at 2:16 PM

The Space Force plans to launch at least 80 missions --30 missions for Lane 1 and 56 missions for Lane 2 -- under space launch acquisitions Phase III from fiscal year 2025 to FY-29, according to a recent industry day briefing.

On July 20-21, the Defense Department hosted an industry day to provide updates on National Security Space Launch’s first draft request for proposals for Lane 1 and Lane 2.

U.S. Space Systems Command stated that the Lane 1 missions would be more risk-tolerant while Lane 2 missions will require full mission assurance, including five Global Positioning System missions and additional National Reconnaissance Office missions.

“[For Lane 2] mission estimate increased from 39 to approx. 58 missions over the FY25-FY29,” the command noted in the briefing.

Further, to increase resiliency and assured access to space, the service has also added a third-launch provider to Lane 2 in the event of a debacle with the Lane 2 provider. The third launch provider will also be awarded seven missions, a move to widen the scope of competition and control cost.

According to the briefing, each launch service provider of Lane 2 will be allotted a cap of $100 million annually for launch service support.

Expanding on the Lane 2 updates to the second draft request for proposals, the briefing noted that from FY-27 DOD will evaluate the system readiness to ensure the NSSL requirements are met.

“Government may find advantageous the use of demonstrated flight data of the proposed system, flight heritage for major subsystems, operationally ready launch facilities and associated infrastructure and other evidence of readiness to meet NSSL requirement,” the briefing states.

Additionally, according to the second draft RFP, Lane 1 would consist of a multiple-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that will have a five-year basic ordering period and a five-year option ordering period.

Adding to it, the command noted that Lane 1 provider can propose multiple launches to meet the 15,000 lbs to low earth orbit minimum requirement and a plan to achieve 1 successful flight within one year of the IDIQ proposal due date.

Inside Defense recently reported that Senate lawmakers have approved an amendment to establish Lane 2A, an additional lane two years into Phase III to increase the competition within the field.

Explaining the advantages of introducing Lane 2A in the briefing, the service said it will provide annual on-ramp opportunities, ensure capability for hard missions and provide additional resiliency through new launch systems.

Space Systems Command is expecting to award a contract for Lane 1 and 2 in the fourth quarter of FY-23.