The US Air Force (USAF) has selected Firefly Black to compete for launch service contracts under the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) programme.

Firefly Black is one of the eight companies selected by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division to compete for indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts.

The multiple-award IDIQ has a combined ceiling value of $986m and will have a nine-year ordering period.

Other companies selected for the contract include Space Exploration Technologies, Xbow Launch Systems, United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Aevum, VOX Space, and Rocket Lab.

The contract is intended to provide primary launch services to the US Department of Defense and other government agencies.

The OSP-4 builds on the OSP-3 programme and will involve providing responsive launch solutions to the USAF.

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman were the contract awardees under the OSP-3 programme.

Firefly Black president Leslie Kovacs said: “Firefly Black is honoured to have been selected by the airforce for this key government space launch acquisition.

“Continuing rapid successes in the all-private development of our Alpha launch vehicle, including Stage 2 qualification, a successful quad engine firing of our first stage, and conversion of Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg AFB to support our first quarter, 2020 first launch, underscore our commitment to answer the nation’s call for responsive and reliable small launch services.”

The airforce is focused on tapping the potential of small launchers to enable access to space for defence payloads. OSP-4 will be able to accommodate mission requirements for payloads weighing more than 400lbs.

The contractors will be required to provide the capability of launching to any orbit within 12 to 24 months of securing the task order award.