Three companies to develop rockets for national security launches

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Enlarge The Air Force evidently likes what it sees in Blue Origin's New Glenn

What would further add to the sting for Elon Musk's company, is the fact that the DOD will be selecting two of these three companies to become official launch providers for the United States government.

The Air Force said the OTAs awarded through a competitive acquisition process are part of its plan to competitively select two domestic commercial service providers that can support the launch of national security payloads by fiscal 2020.

The $2 Billion contract by the Air Force, will help the 3 companies in their rocket development efforts. With major propulsion and structural elements of OmegA already complete, Northrop Grumman is on schedule to complete propulsion system ground tests in 2019 and conduct its first launch in 2021.

The public-private Launch Service Agreements awarded almost $792 million to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which acquired defense and space contractor Orbital ATK in June. Unlike the Atlas V rocket that the company now uses, the new rocket will uses engines made in the United States. United Launch Alliance will take home the lion's share of $967 million, which will go towards developing its Vulcan rocket.

Blue Origin is now developing the rocket reusable New Glenn, for the years 2020, and for which it has opened a plant last year.

Blue Origin got $500 million for New Glenn, which it's building at a massive new factory on the Space Coast. The company also recently announced that it would sell its BE-4 engine to ULA, another significant revenue stream.

"Our launch program is a great example of how we are fielding tomorrow's Air Force faster and smarter", said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. "Our new OmegA rocket leverages technologies, capabilities and flight experience gained from decades of successful rocket launches, making it an affordable and reliable choice for national security missions".

The Air Force said it would not discuss which companies submitted bids for the funding agreements.

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