The Air Force has awarded contracts to both Orbital Sciences and Andrews Space (a Seattle-based company started in 1999) to define architectures for the Hybrid Launch Vehicle Studies and Analysis Program. Orbital says it will develop an operationally responsive space launch design that combines a reusable first stage with other kinds of expendable upper stages and plans to evaluate alternative aerodynamic, propulsion, and structural configurations. Andrews says it will leverage its “extensive responsive space launch experience base” from work with NASA and DARPA and plans to develop a “flexible, modular hybrid.” The Air Force already has awarded HLV contracts to Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.