The US Air Force is awarding a series of contracts for the development of a Launch System Prototype for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The contracts are part of a portfolio that aims to leverage commercial launch solutions to meet National Security Space requirements. This includes the launch of the heaviest and most complex payloads the US military has to offer.
The first contract is awarded to United Launch Alliances and is valued at $967 million. This covers the an initial investment for the development of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur launch system. The Vulcan is being developed to replace both the Atlas-5 and Delta-4 families which will be phased out beginning in 2018. By 2023 ULA plans to introduce a more powerful Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES) to the Centaur second stage. ACES, assisted by six solid rocket boosters will be able to outlift the existing Delta 4 Heavy. ULA’s work will be performed at it’s factories in Centennial, Colorado; Decatur, Alabama; and at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Vulcan is expected to be ready for launch by end of March 2025.
The second contract is valued at $791.6 million goes to Orbital Sciences Corp, which will develop the OmegA launch system. Orbital’s OmegA rocket’s initial intermediate-payload configuration consists of a solid-rocket booster a second stage powered by the company’s Castor 300 or Castor 600 solid-rocket motor, and a third stage powered by two Aerojet RL-10C engines. By adding up to six strap-on boosters, OmegA will be capable of launching payloads of up to 22,266 lbs. to a geostationary transfer orbit, and payloads of up to nearly 17,200 lbs. to geostationary equatorial orbits. The OmegA will be produced at a variety of Orbital facilities including Chandler, Arizona; Magna and Promontory, Utah; Iuka, Mississippi; West Palm Beach, Florida; Sandusky, Ohio; and Michoud, Louisiana. The OmegA will be launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Orbit is expected to complete the rocket by December 31st, 2024.
The third contract is being awarded to Blue Origin LLC owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The $500 million order covers the initial development of the company’s New Glenn launch system. New Glenn is a new reusable rocket family, the three-stage version is 313 feet tall. The first stage is modelled after the reusable booster New Shepard and significantly reduces cost and maintenance. A single, vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. Work will be performed at the company’s factories in Kent, Washington and Huntsville, Alabama. The New Glenn will have its launch facilities at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg AFB and is expected to be ready by July 2024.
In the coming months the companies will create launch system prototypes; ultimately, the Air Force will narrow the field from three to two developers, who will continually compete for national security rocket launch opportunities from fiscal year 2020 onward. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is currently left out of the competition but may be able to join the program at a later stage. Under the EELV program, the competitors must develop or source domestically-produced propulsion systems — a reversal of the current status quo. (end)
General Electric is being awarded with a eight-year IDIQ contract to support the Air Force’s ATTAM program. The contract has a ceiling of $250 million and provides for the development of next generation turbines. The Advanced Turbine Technologies for Affordable Mission-Capability program aims to develop and demonstrate inlet, engine, exhaust nozzle, and integrated thermal management technologies that enable optimized propulsion system performance over a broad range of altitude and flight velocity. The new engine design will use adaptive fan blades and engine cores to generate high thrust when needed, and optimize fuel efficiency when cruising or loitering, in order to combine the best characteristics of high-performance and fuel-efficient jet engines. Work will be performed at GE’s factory in Cincinnati, Ohio and is expected to be completed by October 2026.
Lockheed Martin is receiving a contract modification to a previously awarded Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Field Support Contract (TFSC). The modification is valued at $164 million which raises the contract’s total ceiling value to $725 million. Lockheed will continue to provide logistics, in theatre support, software support, missile support and security and engineering services. THAAD is designed to intercept incoming enemy ballistic missiles as they begin their terminal descent phase in low space and the upper atmosphere. This modification also incorporates activities in support of the the International Engineering Services program and Field Surveillance program. Work will be performed at Lockheed’s factories in Huntsville, Alabama; Sunnyvale, California; Grand Prairie, Texas and Troy, Alabama. The ordering period remains from March 25, 2010, through March 31, 2019.
Middle East & Africa
Pakistan is consolidating its nuclear capability and is reaffirming it’s deterrence regime. The country conducted a test launch of its Ghauri or Hatf-V ballistic missile on Monday, October 8. The Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Public Relations team published a video that shows the missile to successfully launch and the dummy re-entry vehicle striking a land-based target. The Ghauri is a medium-range, road-mobile, liquid-fueled ballistic missile that can carry a 1.400 lbs payload. The Ghauri is a Pakistani modification of North Korea’s Nodong ballistic missile. Pakistan is thought to possess around two dozen Ghauri missiles. The Army states in a press release that “the launch was conducted by Army Strategic Forces Command and was aimed at testing the operational and technical readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command”, and that the missile “can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads up to a distance of 1300 km.” The ability to strike Indian targets make the missile a core part of Pakistan’s strategic missile forces.
Jane’s reports that the Spanish Ministry of Defense is selecting the Orbiter 3 UAV for overseas missions. The $3.6 million deal between Spain and Israeli company Aeronautics provides for the delivery of two Orbiter 3 systems, each comprising three UAVs. Orbiter can be ground or sea-launched from a catapult and uses a low acoustic signature electric motor for propulsion during missions of up to seven hours duration at a range of 100 km. On land, the UAS is recovered by means of a parachute and deployed airbag. The Orbiter 3 carries a triple sensor payload that is specifically designed to fulfil an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) role. The UAV can be assembled on 20 minutes, can fly-autonomous and will be used to protect Spanish bases and troops on overseas missions.
BAE Systems Australia is currently in the run to secure a deal for the continued support of Australia’s Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships and LHD Landing Craft (LLC). BAE is teaming up with Atlantic & Peninsula Australia, Saab Australia and Navantia Australia. Together they offer an experienced team that can maintain the capabilities of the LHD assets and optimise the sustainment and support system. Atlantic & Peninsula Australia previously worked on the HMAS Choules, a dock landing ship, while Saab supported the LHD combat system in the past. Navantia is the designer of the Canberra-class and also manufactures the class’ hulls. The Royal Australian Navy’s new Canberra-class LHDs are be able to serve as amphibious landing ships, helicopter carriers, floating HQs and medical facilities for humanitarian assistance, and launching pads for UAVs or even short/vertical takeoff fighters.
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