SMC Releases Draft RFP for Five EELV Launches

The Air Force released a draft request for proposals for five more National Security Space launches in its evolved expendable launch vehicle program. SpaceX will launch the second GPS III satellite, the first competitive contract awarded, in 2018. Here, SpaceX conducts its first launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in September 2013. Air Force photo by Airman Yvonne Morales.

The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center on Monday released a draft request for proposal for five launches in the evolved expendable launch vehicle program. Together these missions make up Phase 1A-6 of the service’s EELV competitive space launch strategy.

The draft RFP includes two launches of National Reconnaissance Office assets through missions called NROL-85 and NROL-87. It also includes SBIRS GEO-5, the fifth mission in the Air Force’s space-based infrared system, and AFSPC-44, an unidentified Air Force Space Command mission.

A fifth mission is called Silent Barker, which is an “Air Force Space Command-National Reconnaissance Office partnership,” SMC commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson told reporters last week at a Pentagon briefing. Brig. Gen. Mark Baird, director of space programs, told reporters at the same briefing that the classified mission will involve a new capability in the space situational awareness portfolio, though officials declined to provide additional details.

These five missions bring the total number of planned launches in Phase 1A to 14. SMC has awarded launch services agreements for the first three launches and has released final RFPs for six more. The center plans to issue an RFP for one more launch before the end of 2017. The first launch from a Phase 1A contract—United Launch Alliance’s launch of the first GPS III satellite—is scheduled for May 2018.

This entry has been updated to accurately reflect the launch provider for the first Phase 1A launch.