The $2 Billion contract by the Air Force, will help the 3 companies in their rocket development efforts. The awards are part of cost-sharing arrangements - known as Other Transaction Agreements - that the Air Force is signing with the three companies to ensure it has multiple competitors. Strap-on solid-fuel boosters also can be attached to the rocket for additional liftoff power depending on payload requirements. Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK Inc., was awarded $792 million and will manufacture its OmegA Launch System.
The Omega rocket uses a large solid-propellant first stage and hydrogen-fueled RL10 engines in its upper stage.
Blue Origin said in a statement following yesterday's announcement that it will build a launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, although it did not say what rockets would launch from the site.
Blue Origin recently completed a huge new rocket manufacturing facility just outside the Kennedy Space Center and is modifying a launch pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to support New Glenn flights. Bezos tweeted a thank-you message Wednesday to the Air Force for its "confidence in the Blue Origin team".
"Blue Origin is proud to serve the NSS community and is committed to providing safe, reliable access to space for the nation". New Glenn is expected to reach initial launch capability in 2020.
Awarded under the U.S. government's Launch Service Agreement, these contract form part of the USA government's attempts to reduce reliance on Russian rockets for launches that are of national importance from a security standpoint. The company is receiving $791.6 million to develop their Omega rocket.
The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne's RL10C engine.
United Launch Alliance in 2015 announced it plans to retire the Delta IV variant.
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