U.S. Air Force selected eight companies for its nine years space launch program

The United States Air Force has selected eight companies for its latest commercial satellite deployment program that’s expected to cost more than $900 million.

Notably, the program is under the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The division calls the program the Orbital Services Program-4 or OSP-4.

OSP-4 is designed to accommodate small and medium payloads greater than 400 lbs. and providers have to be able to deliver these payloads to orbit within 12 to 24 months after receiving an order.

The agency announced October 10 that it would divide the total $986 million procurement contract between SpaceX, Xbow Launch Systems, Northrop Grumman, Firefly Aerospace, United Launch Alliance, Aevum, Vox Space and Rocket Lab. Together, the companies will provide launch services for the Air Force in the course of nine years.

Furthermore, OSP-4 is a follow-on to the Orbital Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3) contract that is set to expire Nov. 30. OSP-4 will allow for the rapid acquisition of launch services to meet mission requirements, thus the required completion and launch within the 12 to 24 month period, which is also motivated by task order award on a competitive basis. The Air Force projects to procure about 20 missions over the nine-year period.

Previously, in OSP-3, only SpaceX and Northrop Grumman were the only companies that received contracts. Notably, Lockheed Martin also originally received a deal but withdrew from the program in 2016 before it was awarded any missions.

Additionally, the OSP-4 multi-vendor deal is also known as a “multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity” contract. In other words, the Air Force will not be giving a definite number of orders and set dates to when they would be launching. Instead, they are required to be prepared in the instance the Air Force deems their services are necessary.

In turn, the eight companies will be awarded $50,000 as the contract’s minimum guarantee. Also, under the IDIQ contract, the Air Force will compete for as many as 20 missions among the awardees.

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

“In today’s contested space domain, contracts must be flexible and responsive to meet the challenges facing the warfighter. 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,” said Col. Bongiovi.

The Air Force released the solicitation for OSP-4 August 14 and received nine proposals, which were due August 29.

Col. Bongiovi said in a statement that the OSP-4 program is intended to give the government options to launch missions as needs emerge.

“Contracts must be flexible and responsive,” he said. “The program balances technology, mission risk, and schedule while leveraging rapidly evolving market forces.”

The Air Force in a news release said OSP-4 seeks to capitalize on the emerging small launch industry. The work will be performed at the contractor facilities or at government launch sites, depending on mission requirements.

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