The Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the first contract under its Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation Broad Agency Announcement solicitation—the first step in the Air Force’s transition away from the Russian-made RD-180 engine used on the Atlas V rocket. Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering received the $545,860 contract for evaluation of additively manufactured liquid rocket engine cooling channels in representative environments, according to a release. “The end goal of our strategy is to have two or more domestic, commercially viable launch providers that also meet national security space requirements,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the Air Force’s program executive officer for space and commander of SMC, in a written statement. “This is essential in order to solidify US assured access to space, transition the [evolved expendable launch vehicle] program away from strategic foreign reliance, and support the US launch industry’s commercial viability in the global market,” he said. More awards, totaling $35 million, are expected over the next three months. The Air Force said in June that replacing the RD-180 would require either a new launch vehicle or significant modifications to the Atlas V rocket. (See also USAF Officials Urge Congress to Allow More RD-180s.)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.