Thursday, April 16, 2009

ULA Wins Another Gap-Filling Launch Contract

The U.S. government's prime space launch services supplier snared another multimillion-dollar contract this month, bringing to more than 60 the number of satellite-delivery missions it intends to fly between now and 2015.

Under the terms of the $184 million contract, United Launch Alliance will loft a classified payload for the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. The NRO owns and operates the nation's fleet of spy satellites.

ULA spokesman Mike Rein said the payload -- designated NROL-15 -- will blast off atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 37.

The announcement is good news for Florida's Space Coast. NASA is expected to cut at least 3,500 of 14,500 jobs at Kennedy Space Center when the shuttle fleet is retired at the end of 2010, and the agency is facing a five-year gap between the last shuttle mission and the first piloted flights of Ares rockets and Orion spacecraft.

It also marks the second time in the past month that United Launch Alliance has captured a launch services contract for flights that will take place during the gap. NASA last month awarded the company a $600 million contract to launch four spacecraft between 2011 and 2014.

"I'm extremely proud and appreciative of the confidence our DOD, NASA and commercial customers have placed in United Launch Alliance to launch these critically important missions for our nation. All of these missions will enhance national defense, scientific exploration and economic prosperity benefiting all Americans and many of our allied nations," Jerry Jamison, the company's vice president for launch operations, said in a statement.

"Specifically for Florida, there will be tremendous change taking place for the space industry in Brevard in the coming years, but our launch team is pleased that we will continue to play a major role in continuing the legacy that has made the Cape the 'world's premiere gateway to space' for decades," he said.

"Ultimately, this is not only great news for ULA, but great news for all of Brevard County due to the positive economic impact each launch brings to the Space Coast."

A joint venture partnership of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Co., United Launch Alliance merges the Atlas and Delta rocket families and launches satellite-delivery missions from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

ULA is the prime provider of expendable rocket launch services for the U.S. government; its customers include the NRO, NASA, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others.

The new contract marks the 14th launch the company has been awarded in the past 14 months. Eleven of those will set sail from Cape Canaveral; the remaining three will fly from Vandenberg.

Click to enlarge the Florida Today image of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket blazing through Space Coast night skies after setting sail last January from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. You can also click the enlarged version to get an even bigger, more detailed view of the scene on Cocoa Beach. Photo credit: Malcomb Denemark/Florida Today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too bad ULA has continued to lay off key personnel while they gain more contracts. Doesn't seem right to me.