Air Force Taps Northrop, ULA, Blue Origin for Rocket Prototype Dev't OTAs

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Northrop Grumman, which recently acquired Orbital ATK, will receive almost $800 million for its OmegA Launch system.

The US Air Force yesterday said that it had awarded a total US$2.3 billion (RM9.55 billion) in contracts to develop rocket launch systems for national security missions.

Blue Origin's New Glenn launch system, United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur launch system and Northrop Grumman's OmegA launch system were winners the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program Wednesday, a highly sought-after award that will allow the companies to complete development of their boosters for the three rockets. Unlike the Atlas V rocket that the company now uses, the new rocket will uses engines made in the United States.

Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems used to be known as Orbital ATK Inc. and operates as the aviation division of parent company Northrop Grumman.

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Blue Origin's New Glenn Rocket.

Blue Origin got $500 million for New Glenn, which it's building at a massive new factory on the Space Coast. New Glenn is expected to reach initial launch capability in 2020. The high-level specifications for the vehicle were publicly announced in September 2016. What would further add to the sting for Elon Musk's company, is the fact that the DOD will be selecting two of these three companies to become official launch providers for the USA government.

The launch service agreements "will facilitate the development of three domestic launch system prototypes and enable the future competitive selection", the Air Force said in a statement.

The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne's RL10C engine. For almost a decade, ULA had a monopoly on Pentagon launches until it was challenged by SpaceX, which eventually was granted certification and has been competing against ULA.

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