Encouraging Competition in Space

The Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center is working with SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to make sure both can bid on the first competitive national security space launch. Claire Leon, director of the SMC’s launch enterprise directorate, told reporters in a conference call that the center is “actively working with SpaceX to add the … Falcon upgrade to the list of certified products,” and is working with ULA to make sure they can bid despite bans on the use of Russian rocket engines. “It is critical to the Air Force that we get more than one bidder,” Leon said, noting that language in the proposed National Defense Authorization Act would allow ULA to use four Russian engines, and if that is not approved, they could pursue a national security waiver. The Air Force in September released the final request for proposals for GPS III launch services; it is to be the first of nine competitive launch services under the Phase 1A procurement strategy. Leon said the Air Force’s priorities, both mandated by law, are maintaining resilience in launch capability and “supporting competition where it credibly exists.”