Space Core Work

The Air Force expects to conclude negotiations by next spring with United Launch Alliance, supplier of Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, for the booster cores to support 28 national security space launches between Fiscal 2013 and Fiscal 2017, service spokeswoman Vicki Stein told the Daily Report. Service officials have said this “block-buy” contract is part of the broader strategy to ensure that the Air Force can continue to place the nation’s military and intelligence satellites into orbit reliably and safely, while also lowering launch costs with ULA and enabling new launch providers, such as SpaceX, to enter the national security launch market. The negotiations center around ULA providing 36 evolved expendable launch vehicle cores for the 28 missions. Twenty-four of the missions will require one booster core, while four missions will require an EELV heavy-lift configuration of three cores. Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive, approved the Air Force’s strategy on Nov. 27, said Stein on Dec. 20. Kendall also authorized the Air Force to pursue competition as early as Fiscal 2015—enabling new entrants to go up against ULA—for up to 14 additional booster cores, bringing to 50 the total number of cores that the Air Force seeks to procure by Fiscal 2017. (See also this Air Force release as well as Launchers and Lamborghinis from Air Force Magazine’s 2012 archive.)