The Air Force released Aug. 14 its solicitation for the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) program to rapidly launch payloads within two years of task order award.

The service’s Rocket Systems Launch Program Office, which sits under Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) Launch Enterprise, released the solicitation less than three months after issuing the draft request for proposals (Defense Daily, May 31).

Orbital’s Minotaur IV launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Aug. 26, 2017, carrying the ORS-5 space-tracing satellite. Photo: Orbital ATK.

OSP-4 is an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for which the Air Force expects to procure about 20 missions for launch services for payloads greater than 400 pounds, to take place over a nine-year period. Requirements include the ability to take 400 pounds of payload up to Low-Earth Orbit or up to 8,000 pounds up to Geostationary Orbit with launches scheduled within 12-24 months of contract award.

It is a follow-on to the OSP-3 contract set to expire this November. Proposals are due by Aug. 29,  and the service intends to award an IDIQ contract to multiple awardees by the end of the year, with an opportunity for new providers to enter the contract in future years, per the solicitation.

“The OSP-4 contract will build on our Rocket Systems Launch Program’s legacy of success dating back to the early 1960’s by supporting Department of Defense and U.S. government agencies’ small launch efforts for the next nine years,” said Col. Rob Bongiovi, director of SMC’s Launch Enterprise, in a Wednesday evening press release.

“In today’s contested space domain, contracts must be flexible and responsive to meet the challenges facing the warfighter,” he added. “The program balances technology, mission risk, and schedule while leveraging rapidly evolving market forces to cultivate a resilient and affordable launch capability for U.S. government needs.”

The Air Force awarded four five-year OSP-3 contracts in 2012 to Space X, Lockheed Martin Space Systems [LMT] and Orbital ATK, now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems [NOC]. The contracts included task orders such as a partnership with NOAA, NASA and academia to launch 24 satellites on Space X’s Falcon Heavy Rocket, said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

“This mission demonstrated innovations, like reusability, from new entrants that could drive down the cost and enhance reliability of National Security Space launch,” Rose said.

Later this year, Northrop Grumman will launch a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload aboard its Minotaur launch vehicle under the OSP-3 contract, Rose added. “We believe OSP-4 will be equally successful as a showcase for industry innovation and a gateway to even more affordable space launch, because we are able to take more risks, more quickly to produce high rewards for the Launch Enterprise,” she said.