Back in 2008, Blue Origin signed a contract worth $500 million with Air Force. The funds were to go to the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. The termination comes after The Air Force settled for both SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to be the ones to provide it with launches for the next five years. Equally important, Blue Origin lost despite being one of the contestants.
At the moment, Blue Origin is yet to give up on the rocket. Its development continues, and the company plans to launch it for commercial use in 2021. Nevertheless, it is still trying to convince the Air Force to continue funding it. Air Force should support it and the ground infrastructure necessary if it wants to earn the national security missions’ certification.
According to the company’s director of government and legislation affairs, Megan Mitchell, the negotiation regarding the certification is ongoing. The plea is justifiable since Blue Origin wasn’t ready for the termination. After all, the agreement was that it would last for six years up to 2024. Unfortunately, that couldn’t continue since it lost the launch services procurement contract. That was grounds enough to see the contract terminated. There was a condition by Air Force that if a company was to lose a launch services contract, then they could face termination of the LSAs.
Another company facing LSAs’ termination is Northrop Grumman. However, the Air Force insists on terminating the agreement. According to the Assistant Secretary in charge of Acquisition Will Roper, Air Force has no choice but to terminate them due to a lack of funds to support the course.
Mitchel chose not to disclose how much of $500 million Blue Origin has received so far. However, there was a highlight of what the company has achieved so far. For instance, the development of the ground infrastructure had already commenced. It has also concluded the assessment phase of the process of the national security space launch certification.
The funding would mean that the Air Force has guaranteed access to space and critical assets of the national security space. After all, it would mean having a third certified launch provider. So, in case of an emergency, Blue Origin will be its backup plan. According to Blue Origin, modifying New Glenn should happen sooner rather than later. It would be easy and less costly, no doubt.
So far, the company has a massive rocket factory built for manufacturing the New Glenn boosters. It is built outside Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. It is also in the process of a launch pad’s development at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Early this year, it launched an engine production factory in Huntsville, Alabama. The engines are for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket and New Glenn.