The three contracts are part of a Department of Defence initiative to assure constant military access to space and curb reliance on foreign-made rocket engines, like ULA's flagship Atlas V rocket that uses Russian-made RD-180 boosters. "ORCRP009161-topic.html" class="local_link" >Lockheed Martin, received a $967 million award for its Vulcan Centaur and Northrop Grumman was awarded $791.6 million for OmegA. "The funding provided through this agreement will be used to tailor our launch vehicle and associated facilities for national security space needs".
The United States Air Force stated that it's investing more into space launches to maintain the country's existing advantage in space development.
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.
Northrop will perform work in Arizona, Utah, Mississippi, Florida, Ohio and Louisiana through December 31, 2024, while Blue Origin will carry out prototype development in Washington and Alabama through July 31, 2024.
The Atlas 5's use of Russian-built RD-180 first stage engines has generated widespread controversy in recent years, but the new Vulcan Centaur will use two of Blue Origin's BE-4 engines in its first stage and Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engines in the Centaur second stage.
In a statement, Bob Smith, the company chief executive officer said that the contract "allows us to further expand our launch manifest beyond our existing commercial customers to fly vital national security space missions".
Jeff Bezos'Blue Origin is expanding its purview into missions for the US military.
The company also offers a heavy lift three-core Falcon Heavy and is developing a huge new rocket known as the BFR to eventually carry passengers to the moon and Mars. The New Glenn is a reusable orbital vehicle created to land back on Earth after launch.
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