Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman Launch Contracts Have Been Dropped by the US Air Force17th Aug 2020
The Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman companies which have been providing launch services for the US Air Force will no longer work with the military institution. At least not on the most recent contracts issued by the US Air Force. The Air Force terminated the contracts and awarded them instead to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA).
For the next five years, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) will offer launch services to American Air Force after being awarded the contracts. Blue Origin and Northrop companies lost the second phase of the National Security Space Launch competition.
How Will the Air Force Deal with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman?
Now the big question remains on how they will deal with the companies which were unsuccessful in obtaining the contracts. They had awarded the contracts to Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman in 2018. ULA was also granted the agreement at the same time. The purpose of the funding was to help the companies develop launch vehicles and the necessary infrastructure.
The Cash the Companies Received
The US Air Force gave $969 million to ULA, $500 million to Blue Origin, and $792 million to Northrop Grumman. The companies were to use the funds through to 2024. However, they had already warned that they would terminate the agreements with any company that is not successful in the Phase 2 procurement contract competition.
Although there is pressure from political quarters not to terminate the contracts, the Air force is set to go through its earlier decision to end the Launch Service Agreement (LSA) contracts. This is according to Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of Acquisition at the US Air Force. He continued to add that they will work with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman to determine the best time to terminate the contracts.
Projects the Companies Undertook with the Air Force Funding
Blue Origin developed the New Glen rocket while Northrop Grumman developed the OmegA launch vehicle. The ULA, on their part, developed the Vulcan Centaur vehicle. Since United Launch Alliance was successful in phase two, they will continue to develop their space launch vehicle with the additional funding granted from the US Air Force.
Possible Legal Repercussions(?)
Due to the award of the contracts to SpaceX and ULA, there may be legal protests. The Air force is aware of this possibility and is preparing itself for the legal battle. Understandably, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin were disappointed at the turn of events and were quick in letting that be known.
However, before the Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin file a complaint, they will be informed by the US Air Force why their bids were unsuccessful.