Senators urge the Air Force not to end partnerships with the space industry

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Senator Patty Murray and Senator Rick Scott asked Air Force Secretary Barrett to continue launch service agreements with companies that do not receive Phase 2 procurement contracts.

WASHINGTON – Two senators of key committees have asked Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett to reconsider plans to terminate existing partnerships with companies if they fail to secure a procurement contract for the National Security Space Launch.

In a May 13 letter to Barrett, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. And Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Urge the Air Force to continue the funding agreements signed with three sponsoring companies in October 2018, except for the agreements of those with companies that receive a procurement contract for Phase 2 of the National Security Space launch phase.

The Air Force awarded Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman US $ 2.3 billion in October 2018 in the form of a Launch Service Agreement that will be spread over six years to cover the cost of certifying missiles for the national To cover safety launch and the construction of launch ramps on both the east and west coasts.

The Air Force said only companies that win phase 2 procurement contracts scheduled to be awarded this summer will continue to receive LSA funding. Blue Origin, ULA, Northrop Grumman and SpaceX are competing for two Phase 2 awards.

The Senators urged the Air Force “to continue its investments in certification and national security enforcement infrastructure that began with the public-private partnerships established in October 2018,” the letter read, a copy of which was obtained from Space News.

Murray is a member of the Senate Grants Committee and Scott is a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. Your request is reflected Blue Origin arguments, which received $ 500 million in LSA funding and has criticized the decision to terminate agreements for providers not selected to procure Phase 2 launch services.

The letter does not name any specific companies. Blue Origin is headquartered in Murray’s home state. Scott is a supporter of the company expanding manufacturing and launch facilities in Florida.

The Senators noted that the LSA agreements were meant to strengthen the domestic industrial base and help the United States end its reliance on Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine. “The continuation of these public-private partnerships also supports the domestic startup industry base in the critical phase of its growth and development,” the letter reads. “These partnerships are helping to transform the economics of space launch and make launch more commercially accessible and affordable.

The Senators’ letter repeats the points of the RAND Corp. in a study released in the launch industry market last month. RAND said the termination of the LSA funding could cause companies to abandon their efforts to certify commercial launch vehicles for national security launch, giving foreign competitors the opportunity to gain market share.

The US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center is reviewing the four companies’ offerings for Phase 2 procurement and plans to select two vendors this summer.

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