Blue Origin Joins SpaceX and ULA in Pentagon’s Rocket Launch Contract

Blue Origin Joins SpaceX and ULA in Pentagon's Rocket Launch Contract

Key Points:

  • Blue Origin wins a spot in the Pentagon’s $5.6 billion NSSL program for the first time. SpaceX and ULA also awarded contracts under NSSL Phase 3 Lane 1.
  • Phase 3 introduces a broader competitive landscape, with 90 rocket launch orders expected.
  • ULA and SpaceX dominated Phase 2, with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman missing out previously.
  • The contracts signify increased opportunities and heightened competition in the U.S. military’s space launch initiatives.

The Pentagon has announced the first winners in its extensive rocket launch contract sweepstakes, with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin securing a coveted spot for the first time. This announcement marks a significant milestone under the Pentagon’s $5.6 billion National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA)—a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing—also received NSSL Phase 3 Lane 1 contracts. These companies will now be eligible to compete for launch contracts through mid-2029, adding new momentum to the U.S. military’s space missions.

The NSSL Phase 3 program represents a critical evolution in the Pentagon’s approach to space launches. The previous Phase 2 saw ULA and SpaceX as the primary contractors, with ULA securing 26 missions worth $3.1 billion and SpaceX obtaining 22 missions valued at $2.5 billion over five years. Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman were excluded from Phase 2 when the Pentagon selected ULA and SpaceX in August 2020.

The new Phase 3 broadens the competitive landscape, signaling the U.S. military’s intent to diversify and intensify its procurement strategy for space missions. The program is divided into two main categories, Lane 1 and Lane 2, designed to accommodate a wider range of companies and mission requirements. Phase 3 is expected to encompass 90 rocket launch orders, significantly increasing the stakes and opportunities for industry players.

Space Force has outlined a “mutual fund” strategy for Phase 3, splitting the program into two lanes. Lane 1 features three companies—Blue Origin, SpaceX, and ULA—handling the most demanding and costly missions. Lane 2 will further open the field, enabling more companies to bid and participate in the competitive process.

Including Blue Origin in this high-stakes program is a notable achievement for the company, striving to establish itself as a key player in the space launch market. Blue Origin’s new role in the NSSL program underscores the Pentagon’s commitment to fostering competition and innovation.

As the U.S. military gears up for this expanded competition in space launches, the strategic importance of reliable and advanced rocket technology continues to grow. The Phase 3 contracts represent a pivotal opportunity for these aerospace giants to demonstrate their capabilities and secure their positions as essential partners in the nation’s space endeavors.

TechGolly editorial team led by Al Mahmud Al Mamun. He worked as an Editor-in-Chief at a world-leading professional research Magazine. Rasel Hossain and Enamul Kabir are supporting as Managing Editor. Our team is intercorporate with technologists, researchers, and technology writers. We have substantial knowledge and background in Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Embedded Technology.

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