The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded contracts to United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX to provide launch services for certain national security missions.
The Contracting Division, Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California, is the contracting activity for both contracts, which have an aggregate value of more than $739m.
Under a $441.76m firm-fixed-price contract, ULA will provide launch services to deliver the SILENTBARKER, SBIRS GEO-5, and SBIRS GEO-6 missions to their intended orbits.
The contract will include launch vehicle production, mission integration, mission launch operations / spaceflight worthiness, and mission unique activities for SILENTBARKER and Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO)-5.
Awarded under the USAF’s Phase 1A procurement strategy, the contract includes an option for an additional SBIRS GEO-6 launch service.
While SBIRS GEO-5 is expected to be launched by March 2021, the completion of SILENTBARKER is slated for March 2022.
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ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno said: “ULA’s commercially developed Atlas V rocket has been a workhorse for national security, science and commercial missions since 2002, launching 79 missions with 100% mission success and builds on the heritage of more than 600 Atlas programme launches.
“The Atlas V has delivered sensitive and essential missions, including classified defence systems, planetary exploration spacecraft and key commercial assets, with precise orbital accuracy.
“We draw on that experience as we transition to our next-generation Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle, designed to meet or exceed the needs of our airforce customer so we can continue to provide reliable, on-time, assured access to space well into the future.”
According to ULA, the missions will be launched from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US.
Meanwhile, the $297m contract secured by SpaceX is for the launch of NROL-87, NROL-85, and AFSPC-44 missions.
The launch of AFSPC-44 is planned to be completed by February 2021, while NROL-85 and NROL-87 are scheduled for completion by December 2021.
In June 2014, the USAF awarded a $1.86bn contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems to build SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 missile-warning satellites.
Data provided by the satellites is used for applications across areas such as battlespace awareness, intelligence and round-the-clock tactical alerts.