Space Force preparing $5.6 billion for National Security Space Launch

By Shelley K. Mesch / June 14, 2024 at 2:12 PM

Blue Origin will join United Launch Alliance and SpaceX in competing for National Security Space Launch contracts, which will total up to $5.6 billion over the next five years.

Space Systems Command announced last night the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity awards for the NSSL Phase 3 Lane 1 services. Each of the businesses received task orders to conduct initial capabilities assessments and provide explanations for their approaches to tailored mission assurance.

Blue Origin, ULA and SpaceX will now compete for firm, fixed-price Launch Service Task Orders for specific missions.

These are the first contracts awarded under the two-lane model adopted for NSSL. Lane 1 includes missions that could accept some risk while Lane 2 includes missions that need full assurance, such as GPS or National Reconnaissance Office missions.

“As the Space Force continues to streamline processes and increase resiliency, the NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement contracts provide the opportunity to include the most current domestic commercial innovation into our launch program as soon it becomes available,” Space Force acquisition chief Frank Calvelli said in a statement released last evening. “Today marks the beginning of this innovative, dual-lane approach to launch service acquisition, whereby Lane 1 serves our commercial-like missions that can accept more risk and Lane 2 provides our traditional, full mission assurance for the most stressing heavy-lift launches of our most risk-averse missions.”

The service expects to launch 30 Lane 1 missions and 56 Lane 2 missions in the next five years, officials said last year at an industry day briefing.

The service had said in the request for proposals issued last year that the Lane 1 contract vehicle will reopen every year to allow new entrants into the program.

“As we anticipated, the pool of awardees is small this year because many companies are still maturing their launch capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, program executive officer for Assured Access to Space. “Our strategy accounted for this by allowing on-ramp opportunities every year, and we expect increasing competition and diversity as new providers and systems complete development.”

Lane 2 contracts are expected this fall, according to SSC.