The Air Force awarded two launch services contracts to the United Launch Alliance as part of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle phase 1 block buy contract, the Air Force announced. The National Reconnaissance Office L-47 and Space Based Infrared Systems GEO-4 missions are both scheduled to launch in Fiscal 2018. NROL-47 will support the office’s mission of providing overhead intelligence systems for national security, and SBIRS GEO-4 will provide early warning for missile launches, states the release. The contracts include launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations for the two missions. The Air Force’s phase 1 block buy contract included 36 rocket cores, to be procured from Fiscal 2013 to 2017; these two missions count toward that 36. SpaceX, which was recently certified for national security space launches, sued the Air Force in April 2014 over the contract, saying its long-term parameters blocked other companies from competing for such launches. The company dropped the lawsuit in January after the Air Force agreed to expand the number of competitive launch opportunities.
While some of the Air Force's newly announced changes will happen quickly, it may take most of Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin's tenure in the job to accomplish the rest, he said in a Brookings Institution event Feb. 28.