Space force

Space Force awards four rocket companies $87.5 million for testing

An artist’s design shows Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket soaring. (Blue original illustration)

The U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command today announced awards totaling $87.5 million to support commercial prototype projects related to next-generation rocket testing and upgrades to make upper stages more resistant.

The awards were presented under the auspices of the National Security Space Launch Program using the Space Development Corps’ Space Enterprise Consortium, which facilitates engagement involving the Pentagon’s space community, industry and academia. . Rewards include:

  • $24.35 million to Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin for handling cryogenic fluids on the second stage of the New Glenn rocket.
  • $24.35 million to Rocket Lab to develop the upper stage of the Neutron rocket.
  • $14.47 million to SpaceX for rapid acceleration and restart testing of the Raptor rocket engine, which is intended for use on SpaceX’s Starship rocket, development and testing of liquid methane specifications; and combustion stability analysis and testing.
  • $24.35 million to United Launch Alliance for command and control of the Centaur V upper stage uplink, which will be used with ULA’s Vulcan rocket.

Work on these prototype projects is expected to be completed by 2023. The orbital transfer and maneuver prototype projects are expected to begin in early fiscal 2022, pending congressional budget approval.

“Our launch industry is the envy of the world, and we are thrilled to partner with industry to advance transformational space access capabilities,” said Colonel Rob Bongiovi, director of Launch Enterprise at SSC, in a press release.

While prototype projects are being conducted, SSC continues to develop the next phase of the National Security Space Launch Strategy, in support of a Phase 3 procurement competition scheduled for fiscal year 2024. Hundreds of millions of dollars of Phase 2 contracts were awarded to SpaceX and ULA last year after an earlier round of competition.