Aerojet Rocketdyne said Tuesday it signed a contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), an attempt to continue its relationship with the launch provider in the face of competition.

Aerojet Rocketdyne said in a statement the contract will lead to a competitive cost estimate, schedule and risk management plan for the AR1 engine as well as the RS-68, RL10 and solid rocket motors. The contract also calls for a complete technical feasibility analysis, detailed program plans, technology integration, affordable production processes and plans, mission assurance and relating criteria.

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV launches July 28 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo: ULA.
United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV launches July 28 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo: ULA.

This activity is in support of ULA as it prepares to execute Phase 2 of the Air Forces’ Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which provides national security space launches for the Defense Department and the federal intelligence community (IC). Aerojet Rocketdyne said it will leverage decades of experience in advanced liquid rocket engine design, test, manufacture and demonstrated mission assurance toward continuing to provide a variety of propulsion products to ULA.

Aerojet Rocketdyne provides engines to ULA, including the RD-68, which ULA uses as the first stage booster on its Delta IV launch vehicle. ULA also uses the RL10 on both the Atlas V and Delta IV second stages. The independent Mitchell Report, paneled by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, suggested in May a new launch vehicle could be certified by fiscal year 2023 to replace the Delta IV as a more effective, marginal cost solution for heavy lift. The Delta IV costs more to use than the Atlas V.

ULA and Blue Origin recently entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine. The ULA-Blue Origin agreement allows for a four-year development process with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019 (Defense Daily, Sept. 17). The BE-4 will be available for use by ULA and Blue Origin for both companies’ next-generation launch systems, according to a ULA statement.

Requests for comment to Aerojet Rocketdyne representatives were not returned by press time Tuesday. Aerojet Rocketdyne is a division of GenCorp [GY]. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA].