Congressmen to Panetta: Limit Air Force’s Bulk Buys of ULA’s Rockets

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.The on-going battle over the U.S. Air Force’s efforts to bulk buy Atlas V and Delta IV rockets from United Launch Alliance has taken another turn:

The U.S. Air Force should limit any bulk order of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rockets from United Launch Alliance (ULA) to three years’ worth of missions to give competing companies a chance to bring alternative vehicles to market, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

“We support the Air Force’s effort to achieve some economies of scale to provide the best value for the taxpayer, but we are concerned that any EELV block buy that goes beyond three years worth of launches will unnecessarily exclude competition,” Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) wrote in the Aug. 2 letter. Rogers and Ruppersberger are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

ULA is facing competition from upstart SpaceX, which is already flying to Falcon 9 and is developing the heavy-lift Falcon Heavy specifically to compete in the military payload market.

Read the Space News story.