The Air Force could award as many as four contracts totaling $160 million as part of its next-generation rocket propulsion system request for proposals (RFP) released Tuesday, according to a key service official.

Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) Commander Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves also said Tuesday in a teleconference call with reporters from the Pentagon that non-governmental investment must cover at least one-third of costs. The contracts, Greaves said, are expected to cover 12 to 18 months’ worth of effort.

United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle uses the Russian RD-180 engine. Photo: Air Force.
United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle uses the Russian RD-180 engine. Photo: Air Force.

The Air Force on Tuesday issued a pair of important documents in its quest to have its next-generation rocket propulsion system ready by 2019. In addition to an RFP, it also issued an open broad agency announcement (BAA) for the booster propulsion technology maturation project.

Greaves said Tuesday the BAA will fund technology maturation and risk reduction in two focus areas. One is material manufacturing and development at the propulsion component level. The second, he said, is for advancing technology next-generation boost propulsion cycles, configurations and/or propellants. Greaves said the Air Force needs to improve its level of understanding of oxygen-rich stage combustion technology.

The Air Force, Greaves said, is looking for six-to-eight individual awards from its BAA for a total of about $32 million. No more than $16 million for any single award or $8 million, maximum, for a focus area, he said. Responses to the rocket propulsion system prototypes RFP are due by noon EDT on June 23, according to a notice on Federal Business Opportunities (FBO). Any objections to the terms of the RFP must be presented in writing to the Air Force by June 12 (Defense Daily, June 2).