The Air Force has awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA) $156.7 million for the last of three National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) launches, which will possibly mark the final national security launch aboard the alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket.
The new funds provide for NROL-70, the final planned NRO launch mission under a contract awarded in October 2018. The modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract from $310.7 million to $467.5 million, according to an Aug. 7 contract announcement.
ULA – a joint launch venture between Boeing [BA] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] – received a $149 million contract for the second launch, NROL-68, this past May, while the first mission, NROL-91 was ordered in the initial contract award (Defense Daily, May 10). Launches are expected to occur in fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024, with NROL-91 expected to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, while the other two will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida.
NROL-70 will mark the final sole-sourced national security launch aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket. The Air Force has issued requests for proposals for the launch services procurement (LSP) program, which pits companies including ULA, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems [NOC], Space X and Blue Origin against each other to launch the Defense Department’s next generation of national security launches (Defense Daily, May 6).
Work will be performed in Centennial, Colorado; Decatur, Alabama; and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and is expected to be completed by January 2024, the announcement said. Fiscal 2019 missile procurement funds in the amount of $144.6 million are being obligated at the time of award.
ULA was selected via sole-source for the three launches last fall when the Air Force determined that the alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket “was the only certified launch service provider with the capability to provide launch services” for the missions, per service documents.