Space Force will change the way it buys national security launch services

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Space Force on February 16 released its procurement strategy for upcoming national security launch service contracts expected to be awarded in 2024.

Space Systems Command has issued two draft requests for proposals for Phase 3 of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL). emerging launch providers.

United Launch Alliance and SpaceX won Phase 2 in 2020 and their current contracts will be repeated.

Space Systems Command will consider industry feedback before issuing a final request for Phase 3 of the NSSL later this year. The command will hold an “industry day” briefing from February 28 to March 1 in Los Angeles.

“We have developed an acquisition strategy that consists of a two-track approach that provides access to a variety of commercially available systems, increases resiliency through alternate launch sites and streamlined integration timelines, allows for annual vendor expansion and emerging launch systems ”, Gen. Stephen Purdy, executive director of the Guaranteed Space Access Program, said in a statement.

To win the NSSL Phase 2 contracts, SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance had to demonstrate that their vehicles can carry payloads to nine “reference orbits”, which requires medium and heavy launch vehicles.

The strategy for Phase 3 is less rigid. Under the “dual lane” approach, companies that cannot fly to all orbits can compete for less demanding missions. This approach has been championed by companies like Blue Origin and Rocket Lab.

NSSL Phase 3 Lane 1

  • This is an indefinite delivery multiple fixed price, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract that would be open to all qualified bidders.
  • Bidders are not required to service all NSSL orbits in order to compete. Tier 1 will have annual expansion opportunities as emerging vendors or systems are ready.
  • This portion of the contract covers purchases from fiscal years 2025 through 2034, with a five-year base order period plus a five-year option.
  • Task orders for launch services are contested annually among all IDIQ awardees.

NSSL Phase 3 Lane 2

  • This is similar to Phase 2 of the NSSL. Space Force will select two providers that can service all of the NSSL’s orbits and unique mission capabilities.
  • The contracts will have a five-year ordering period, from fiscal year 2025 to 2029.
  • Runway 2 payloads require launches to more stressful orbits, necessitating higher performance launch systems and complex safety and integration requirements. Runway 2 also allows the government to cover the cost of developing rockets for unique government missions.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, politics, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly… More by Sandra Erwin

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