Northrop Grumman and Boeing yesterday issued fairly predictable responses to the KC-X decision (see above). Northrop Grumman, which won the contest in February, but had the prize snatched away when Boeing’s protests were upheld by government auditors in June, said in a statement it was “extremely disappointed” by the move, “especially on behalf of the men and women in uniform who will now be denied a critically needed new tanker for years.” The company noted that, as recently as last week, the Pentagon “stated the urgency to replace the Eisenhower-era fleet of refueling tankers,” and noted that the KC-135s may now have to serve past their 80th year. The company said “while we understand, we are greatly concerned about the potential future implications for the defense acquisition process.” Conversely, Boeing, which had hinted that it needed six months to pull together a new bid in the reopened contest, said through a spokesman it “welcomes” Gates’ decision and “believes that it will best serve the warfighter in allowing the appropriate time for this important and complex procurement to be conducted in a thorough and open competition.” The company is looking forward to working with the Air Force to offer “a next generation tanker that meets the long-term requirements” of the service members who rely on tankers, the spokesman said. Boeing also pledged to help keep the KC-135 fleet—built by Boeing more than 45 years ago—“flying their missions safely and reliably.”
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.