The U.S. Space Force has recently assigned SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) a total of 21 rocket launches, amounting to approximately $2.5 billion. This announcement was made by the Space Force’s Space Systems Command and marks the final round of orders under the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 program. In this article, we will delve into the details of these mission assignments and their significance.
The 21 rocket launches were divided almost evenly between SpaceX and ULA. ULA received 11 missions valued at $1.3 billion, while SpaceX secured 10 missions valued at $1.23 billion. These missions are scheduled to take place over the next two to three years, contributing to the continued advancement of space exploration.
ULA, a collaborative effort between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will utilize its upcoming Vulcan rocket for the 11 assigned missions. On the other hand, SpaceX will employ its Falcon 9 rocket for seven missions and its Falcon Heavy rocket for three missions. These rockets have proven their reliability and capability, making them suitable choices for important national security launches.
Initially, the NSSL Phase 2 program was intended to consist of 34 missions. However, due to increased demand for national security launches, the program expanded to include a total of 48 missions. Space Force had previously announced that ULA would receive 60% of the mission assignments, with SpaceX receiving the remaining 40%. However, in the final allocation, SpaceX secured 46% of the missions, while ULA was assigned 54%. This adjustment was made based on the Government’s assessment of readiness and the urgent need to deploy critical space capabilities.
Colonel Doug Pentecost, the deputy program executive officer of the Space Force’s Space Systems Command, emphasized the significance of promptly delivering space capabilities to the Joint Warfighter. The timely deployment of these capabilities ensures that valuable resources are not left idle on the ground. This assessment played a crucial role in the decision to assign more missions to SpaceX than initially anticipated.
With the final Phase 2 assignments concluded, Space Force is preparing to advance the NSSL program further with Phase 3. The agency has initiated the process of procuring an estimated 90 launches for the next round. Pentecost’s division will soon begin evaluating bids for Phase 3 and intends to announce the winning companies in October of the following year. This next phase opens up exciting opportunities for both established aerospace companies and emerging players in the industry.
The recent assignment of rocket launches to SpaceX and ULA by the U.S. Space Force signifies a pivotal moment in the advancement of space exploration and national security capabilities. With billions of dollars invested and multiple missions planned, both companies can continue to push the boundaries of space technology. As we look towards the future, Phase 3 of the NSSL program offers an opportunity for further growth and collaboration, ensuring that the U.S. remains at the forefront of space exploration.