Northrop Grumman Awarded $792 Million Launch Services Agreement from US Air Force

Jeff Bezos and New Glenn

Jeff Bezos shows off the concept for the New Glenn orbital rocket during a Florida news conference in 2015

According to the Air Force, it had to develop a strategy that can accelerate domestic companies' quest to get National Security Space launch requirements.

Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin each multi-hundred million dollar contracts on Wednesday to develop a launch system prototype by 2021 for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

"We're making the most of the authorities Congress gave us and we will no longer be reliant on the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine", said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

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Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems used to be known as Orbital ATK Inc. and operates as the aviation division of parent company Northrop Grumman.

The United States Air Force stated that it's investing more into space launches to maintain the country's existing advantage in space development. The company is receiving $791.6 million to develop their Omega rocket.

Blue Origin's New Glenn Rocket. Finally, Blue Origin will receive $500 million to help in the development of its future New Glenn rocket, which are supposed to be able to come back to earth in one piece after launching their payloads - a technology SpaceX has already developed, and almost perfected. New Glenn is described as a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft), two- or three-stage rocket.

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Since 2003, the EELV program has launched 72 national security missions using the Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.

Blue Origin said in a statement following yesterday's announcement that it will build a launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, although it did not say what rockets would launch from the site. This does not mean the company will not be able to launch satellites for the Department of Defense (DOD), though.

The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne's RL10C engine.

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