space launch contracts space launch contracts

US Space Systems Command Contract Blue Origin, SpaceX score big with new space access deals

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The US Space Systems Command has inked significant contracts with major space launch providers as part of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 3 Lane 1 program. This initiative, valued at over $5 billion, involves companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, and United Launch Services delivering military capabilities into orbit.

These contracts were awarded in mid-June 2024, following a competitive selection process with contributions from seven different firms. The winning companies will provide launch services for the US military over a five-year period, with the potential for extension into the 2030s.

Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, and SpaceX, under Elon Musk, join United Launch Services, a venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to advance America’s strategic interests in space.

How familiar are you with your competition?

Understanding your competitors is crucial in staying ahead. It’s not just about knowing their products but also their strategies, strengths, and weaknesses.

  • Key Competitors:

    • Blue Origin
    • SpaceX
    • United Launch Alliance (ULA)
  • Metrics to Monitor:

    • Launch Capabilities: Evaluate the types of rockets and technologies they are using.
    • Funding and Contracts: Investigate recent contracts and funding rounds, such as the multi-billion-dollar NSSL Phase 3 Lane 1 programme.
    • Innovation and R&D: Look at their investments in research and developmental studies.

Having a comprehensive understanding of each competitor’s business operations and market strategies, allows your company to anticipate industry shifts and seize new opportunities.

US Space Systems Command diversifying launch options

The US Space Systems Command (SSC) has outlined an ambitious plan to expand and diversify launch options through the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 3 program.

By structuring the procurement process into multiple ‘Lanes’, SSC aims to engage both emerging and established players in the aerospace sector.

This initiative, articulated in the Requests for Proposals (RFP) released in October 2023, seeks to foster competition and innovation.

According to Col Douglas Pentecost, Deputy Program Executive Officer for Assured Access to Space, the strategy is designed to ensure at least three providers can fully meet all NSSL requirements.

This approach is not just about fulfilling current needs but also about laying the groundwork for future capabilities.

The final goal is to have a well-rounded selection of launch service providers capable of accommodating a range of payloads and missions.

Lane 1 is open to all eligible bidders and operates on an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) basis.

This lane is particularly important for new and emerging providers, offering annual opportunities to be “on-ramped” as they demonstrate successful launches.

The focus for Lane 1 is on risk-tolerant space vehicles heading to traditional commercial orbits.

This flexibility allows for cost savings and a wider array of launch systems.

Lane 2 features a more competitive environment with three launch service providers receiving Fixed Price (FFP) Indefinite Delivery Requirements contracts.

These providers are chosen based on best value metrics and are expected to handle more complex missions.

Between FY25 and FY29, the best and next-best providers will share approximately 42 missions—split 60% and 40%.

A third provider will take on about seven select missions, starting as early as the second order year.

Lane 2 calls for higher performance launch systems to reach more challenging orbits, with stringent security and integration demands.

This bifurcated strategy allows SSC to adapt its mission assurance levels based on the specific needs of various space vehicles and missions, balancing risk and cost-effectiveness.

This diversification not only promotes a healthier market but also ensures that the US Space Force can meet its growing and evolving operational demands.

This approach represents a significant step forward in maintaining a robust and competitive space launch capability, ensuring that the U.S. remains at the forefront of space technology and defense.

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