Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket wins Air Force contract

La compagnie spatiale de Jeff Bezos remporte un contrat avec l'US Air Force

"We're making the most of the authorities Congress gave us and we will no longer be reliant on the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine", said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, in a press release.

The army intends to select, in fine, the two companies to send their satellites into space, which will only use the american engines, so that the rocket Atlas that she uses now are equipped with engines of Russian.

Since 2003, the EELV program has launched 72 national security missions using the Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles. Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK Inc., was awarded $792 million and will manufacture its OmegA Launch System.

Each company will initially be allocated $181 million.

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Two of the new rockets will be selected in a second competition, providing assured access to space through the next decade and beyond. "These awards are central to the Air Force goal of two domestic, commercially viable launch providers that meet National Security Space requirements", said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Air Force's Program Executive Officer for Space and SMC commander.

The LSA partnership enables rapid buildout of NSS-unique "New Glenn" infrastructure such as vertical payload integration capability and a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base as well as completion of NSS certification activities.

The U.S. Air Force has chosen three aerospace companies in which to invest $2 billion, including one that builds rockets in Chandler. "These innovative public-private partnerships with industry provide a path to develop launch vehicles to assure access to space, address the urgent need to transition away from strategic foreign reliance, and provide responsive launch capabilities to the warfighter". Its first stage will be powered by seven BE-4 engines that are also being designed and manufactured by Blue Origin.

The Defense Department has the option to narrow it to two companies no later than 2020 that will then compete for future launches. Finally, Blue Origin will receive $500 million to help in the development of its future New Glenn rocket, which are supposed to be able to come back to earth in one piece after launching their payloads - a technology SpaceX has already developed, and almost perfected.

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