Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket wins Air Force contract

Jeff Bezos and New Glenn

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

Northrop Grumman Corp., which acquired Orbital ATK Inc. this year, won a $791.6 million contract for development of its Omega rocket.

Awarded under the U.S. government's Launch Service Agreement, these contract form part of the USA government's attempts to reduce reliance on Russian rockets for launches that are of national importance from a security standpoint. The program aids in the development of commercial rockets and ensures that the US government has constant access to space for its national security payloads.

Blue Origin entered into a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) partnership with the Air Force to leverage its commercial, heavy-lift "New Glenn" launch vehicle for national security space (NSS) missions, the Kent company announced Wednesday, Oct. 10.

"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.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide.

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The United States Air Force stated that it's investing more into space launches to maintain the country's existing advantage in space development.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, awarded $500 million for the preliminary work, will build its New Glenn Launch System.

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. New Glenn is expected to reach initial launch capability in 2020. Like the New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle that preceded it, the New Glenn's first stage is created to be reusable.

SpaceX, a current launch provider for the Defense Department, was not on the list.

Blue Origin also plans to use some of the money to create a brand new launch site out of the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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