Boeing and Lockheed Martin are to be given launch contracts on an almost equal basis through the US government's assured access to space policy.
Up until 2010, 23 launches are expected under the new contract arrangement that should be agreed in August. Under the allocated policy each company will get three launches from the East Coast and one from the West a year, and be paid for the ongoing production of boosters. The draft request for proposals (RFP) for assured access was released last week and industry feedback is expected soon.
In May, negotiations will begin on prices and the contractors' cost bases and finally in August launch allocation is expected to begin. But there is one exception. "There will not be allocation on heavylift launches. But if there is no Lockheed Martin heavylift vehicle, it's not an issue," says Lt Gen Brian Arnold, the US Air Force's space and missile systems command centre commander.
Arnold suggests that under the new allocation policy Lockheed Martin may want to build a heavylift vehicle. Only Boeing, with its 12.7t to geostationary transfer orbit Delta IV Heavy, has what is considered heavylift.
The RFP marks Boeing's re-entry into the military space market since being suspended in July 2003 for unethical conduct relating to the first batch of EELV awards. The USAF lifted the suspension on 3 March on condition that no new evidence of wrongdoing is found during an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Justice.
A source at Lockheed Martin expects the Buy 3 launch awards to be split evenly on a revenue basis, but result in slightly more launches going to the less expensive Atlas family of boosters.
ROB COPPINGER/COLORADO SPRINGS
Source: Flight International