USAF Purchases 36 Rocket Cores From ULA

Launch of Delta IV NROL-65, August 28, 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)
Launch of Delta IV NROL-65, August 28, 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

Spaceflight Now is reporting that the US Air Force has agreed to purchase 36 booster cores as part of a deal with United Launch Alliance:

A blockbuster rocket-buying agreement has been signed between the Air Force and United Launch Alliance, the supplier of boosters for national security spaceflight.

The deal aims to produce 36 booster cores for the Pentagon’s use over the next few years of Atlas 5 and Delta 4 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles. Delivery of the rockets through 2017 comes at a savings of $4.4 billion over previous estimates in President Obama’s FY 2012 budget….

The first batch of 7 cores under the three dozen Block Buy are four Air Force missions — Atlas 5-501, Atlas 5-511, Delta 4 Medium+ 4,2 and 5,4 rockets — and one Delta 4-Heavy for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The goal strives to stabilize the rocket production business while giving the government the advantage of buying in bulk to drive down the costs of putting satellites into space.

The Delta IV uses three cores while the Atlas V uses a single one.

  • windbourne

    ULA needs to make hay out of this. They really need a new low cost system to replace both of these.

  • therealdmt

    Welp, I guess that retiring acquisition officer (whom we read about in a previous Parabolic Arc article around a month ago) has, with the completion of this multi-year bulk buy, accomplished the last goal of his military career. He can now concentrate on getting his resume ready so he can apply for a nice cushy job with ULA.

    In fairness, the system was set up for exactly this kind of purchase. But with SpaceX just getting certified, they should have gotten at least a piece of this (or this should have been a smaller buy as, yes, a smaller buy would get a lesser bulk discount – but there is a disruptive change occurring in the industry that will leave the later years of this contract dramatically overpriced, bulk discount or no) and saved us all a chunk of money. This will be the last time ULA gets a contract without any competition, and there’s the impression of one last cushy payout of taxpayer money to the military-industrial round robin.

  • Stuart

    Shocking really, committing to 36 rocket cores, they are over priced but… this decision I guess could be enough to fund them until they have developed their own “grasshopper” type system…. That is if they have read and understand the writing on the wall!

  • Aerospike

    minor nitpicking: only the Delta IV-Heavy uses three cores.