US Air Force Cut Blue Origin and Northrop Rocket Development Funding

The US Air Force is ending Launch Service Agreement contracts awarded in October 2018 to Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, as well as to ULA.

The Launch Service Agreement contracts were to help Phase 2 competitors pay for launch vehicle development and infrastructure. Blue Origin received $500 million; Northrop Grumman $792 million and ULA $967 million. The funds were to be spread out through 2024. The Air Force from the beginning said the LSAs would be terminated with those companies that did not win a Phase 2 procurement contract.

SpaceX and ULA were the only companies with phase 2 missions awards on August 7, 2020.

SpaceX got a $316 million contract to launch USSF-67, a mission scheduled for late in 2022. ULA got a $337 million contract to launch two missions — USSF-51 and USSF-106 which are also in 2022.

SOURCES- Space News
Written By Brian Wang,

21 thoughts on “US Air Force Cut Blue Origin and Northrop Rocket Development Funding”

  1. Now, Blue has no money problems, but I do want to see an all solid version of oMega fly as Athena III, placed in silos to launch at a moment’s notice in case of an asteroid threat. A super ICBM with either a nuke or small probe for transient events…like Oumuamua.

  2. If claims of Ookla’s Speedtest logs are legitimate
    Starlink’s upper/lower bound perf 

    Download: 11 – 60 Mbps
    Upload: 4.5 – 17.7 Mbps
    Latency: 20 – 94 ms

  3. I think musk has next to no money and possibly lots of equity thats already leaveraged to the hilt. He is all in on everything is my understanding? I am pretty sure he doesnt take any cash from any of the businesses and lives off loans to fund his lifestyle as he doesnt want to sell any stock because he believes its future value will be much much higher then the current value. I could be wrong though and all his stock sales would have to be declaired so the information is out there somewhere.

  4. If that is indeed the case, then the mystery is solved, and they are not, in fact, being favoured. However, do you have a source for that? I could find nothing about the mission except that it is to be a FH launch, though it being supposedly top secret, I didn’t bother to look very hard.

  5. That cost includes about $200 million for a new vertical integration facility/mobile service tower installation at pad 39A. One of the requirements for national security launches is vertical payloadd integration, which SpaeX currently doesn’t have. SpaceX basically said we’ll build it if you need it but you gotta pay, and the USAF was satisfied with that answer.

  6. Not sure on this, but they could also be doing it expendable, where there is no recovery of the boosters to get a big payload up or something large to a high orbit. The going rate is higher than the lowest FH rate of 150 mil for that.

  7. Yes. This had me tense when the SpaceX crew mission went up and came back down. Thankfully they had their act together.

    Unfortunately luck is still a factor, i.e. totaly new failure modes can manifest, as happened in July for a launch of an Electron rocket. Falcon 9 has had lots of shake-down flights, but Dragon not so many.

  8. I wonder whether the mission involves two launches. That would be one way to explain the high cost. I don’t know whether the information that is available to the public about the mission definitely rules that out.

    If it isn’t two launches, could it be that the mission includes having SpaceX build a bunch of the satellites that the mission is launching? Customized Starlink satellites? That seems a lot less likely to me, but it is the only other possibility that occurs to me.

    If it isn’t either of those, there must be something else extra included in that mission to make it add up to $316 million. I doubt very much that the DOD is giving SpaceX a 100% bonus over a fully expended Falcon Heavy launch out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Edit: Ah. Asteroza pointed out the $316 million includes about $200 million for building a vertical integration facility. That brings the costs into line with a single Falcon Heavy launch.

  9. It certainly does. Trawling the Web, the payload seems to be top secret, but it will be a FH launch, which is quoted as 150 MUSD per launch, according to Wiki. So it’s about double the going rate.

    Maybe it’s just the USSF paying for the privilege of being an annoying customer, but they might be favouring SpaceX, in fact.

  10. IMO the biggest game changer in space will be based on what is found in the thousands of craters that have been formed over the years on the moon. There are a number of companies investing in vehicles and methods to explore for valuable minerals. If or when someone peeks into one of these craters and finds a huge block of gold or titanium then I think there where be a rush to wealth and increased interest the likes we have never seen. From what I have read these ventures have been formed and are currently being funded by the usual suspects and will make for some very interesting times.

  11. As far as I can tell, the Blue Moon lander is an H fuel station after it lands. Rovers can come back and refuel. Of course, following O’Neill, ISRU will be *the thing* which means lunar water mining is very high priority. Unless you are Mars First/Direct/Only holdover.

  12. xxxx got a $316 million contract to launch USSF-67. Just one? That looks like a heafty state-subsidized rocket launch

  13. The problem with space turism is, that one failure(bunch of rich people killed) could end it for quite some time. And that can happen if you launch often into space.

  14. The real money in space in the 2020s is not going to be from government satellite launches. The real money is going to be from space tourism and the 22,000 potential customers on the planet who would like to travel into space– and who can actually afford to do so. 

     Blue Origin needs to focus on deploying dry microgravity habitats derived from its upper stage propellant tank technology that would actually be attractive places for tourist to visit. Tourist habitats on the lunar surface might also be a lucrative venture.

    Blue Origin needs to be one of the first launch companies to deploy propellant depots into cis-lunar space for its reusable rocket technology and for its reusable lunar lander.

  15. They know thar Blue Origin will do well without their money. Bezos needs to increase its yearly funding from a Billion to a Billion and a half, which is nothing for him. He doesn’t donate money to no one anyway.

  16. This is good. Space-X is the main innovator.

    I still have some outside hope for Blue Origin, but it’s owned by Jeff Bezos. He doesn’t need a couple hundred million dollars. He has plenty of money to get the rockets working on his own. If it’s going to happen, it will happen. Uncle Sam shouldn’t pay for Bezos to make progress.

    I’m a big fan of competition, but let’s face it. Space-X has no real competition.

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