House Power Seeks New Choices for Launch

The House Power is opening up competitors for rocket launches with a “dual-lane method,” probably giving smaller corporations an opportunity to interrupt into the launch enterprise, in keeping with a brand new draft request for proposals launched Feb. 16. 

In publishing the draft RFP, House Programs Command introduced an trade day occasion Feb. 28-March 1 to debate Part 3 of its Nationwide House Safety Launch program.  

Underneath “Lane 1” of this system, SSC will award indefinite-delivery/indefinite amount (ID/IQ) contracts to a number of suppliers, enabling chosen distributors to supply launch providers starting in fiscal 2025. The awards will cowl a five-year span, with an choice to renew for a second 5 years. To allow as many members as potential, the House Power will re-open the solicitation yearly in order that new opponents can “on-ramp” into this system. 

“Lane 2,” in the meantime, is open solely to launch suppliers that have already got fully-certified launch methods. On this a part of its program, SSC will award ID/IQ contracts to 2 launch suppliers able to reaching all orbits and offering “mission distinctive providers, launch providers help, fleet surveillance, early integration research, and particular research.”  

This technique “offers entry to numerous commercially accessible methods, will increase resiliency by way of alternate launch websites and streamlined integration timelines, … permits provide chain stability, and enhances affordability for essentially the most stressing Nationwide Safety House missions,” mentioned Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy, the House Power’s program government officer for Assured Entry to House, in an announcement. 

The prior Part 2 contracts, awarded in August 2020, went to United Launch Alliance and SpaceX and shut out challengers Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin. That contract coated launch orders by way of fiscal 2024, though the precise launches will happen as late as 2027. 

Ever since that award, nonetheless, the House Power has been in search of suggestions on tips on how to work with new entries to the launch market, starting with a Request for Data to trade, in search of suggestions on the way it may work with launch corporations of all sizes and indicating that it would set up “a analysis, improvement, check, and analysis program to speed up the event of transformational industrial area entry, mobility, and logistics applied sciences that may be on-ramped when accessible.” 

And whereas ULA and SpaceX are the one corporations to have received NSSL launch contracts, others have emerged as keen contenders, particularly for launches that solely have to achieve low-Earth orbit. Along with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, Rocket Lab, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit are all among the many potential opponents for “Lane 1” contracts. 

Debate over the acquisition technique for Part 3 reached Congress this previous yr. Within the convention report accompanying the 2023 Nationwide Protection Authorization Act, lawmakers wrote that the House Power “ought to account for modifications within the launch trade” and urged the service to “study all potential choices for awarding contracts for launches throughout the interval coated by the section, together with: block buys; indefinite supply, indefinite amount; or a hybrid method,” along with different concerns. 

On the identical time, legislators have additionally pushed for the service to contemplate a “widespread launch integrator” to coordinate between the federal government, satellite tv for pc builders, and launch suppliers. 

Whereas the brand new draft RFP outlines the House Power’s primary method for Part 3, the official RFP nonetheless must be finalized—House Programs Command is at present projecting that to be launched within the third quarter of fiscal 2023, between April and June.