Author Topic: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement  (Read 32970 times)

Offline su27k

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USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« on: 02/10/2022 12:19 pm »
Space Force asks launch companies for insight on where the industry is going

Quote from: SpaceNews
The U.S. Space Force is polling the space launch industry as it tries to identify what companies might challenge United Launch Alliance and SpaceX when their current contracts are re-competed in 2024.

“The government is identifying sources capable of providing NSSL-class launch services beginning in fiscal year 2025 and is requesting more detailed information on each provider’s capabilities, launch systems, to include when those capabilities will be available,” says a Jan. 27 request for information from the Space Systems Command’s launch enterprise. Responses are due Feb. 24.

Offline su27k

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #1 on: 04/29/2022 04:12 am »
Space Force sees room for more competitors in national security launch

Quote from: SpaceNews
Two space launch companies – United Launch Alliance and SpaceX – currently are under contract to launch military and intelligence satellites for the U.S. Space Force. But when these contracts are up for recompete in 2024, the Space Force might consider working with more than two companies, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond told lawmakers April 27.

“We are really at a transformation point in space,” Raymond said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2023 budget request.

Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) pressed Raymond to shed light on the Space Force’s future plans to buy space launch services as more companies enter the market. Smith has been a longtime critic of the military launch program, arguing that it does not provide enough opportunities for new entrants.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #2 on: 04/29/2022 06:48 am »
Space Force sees room for more competitors in national security launch

Quote from: SpaceNews
Two space launch companies – United Launch Alliance and SpaceX – currently are under contract to launch military and intelligence satellites for the U.S. Space Force. But when these contracts are up for recompete in 2024, the Space Force might consider working with more than two companies, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond told lawmakers April 27.

“We are really at a transformation point in space,” Raymond said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2023 budget request.

Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) pressed Raymond to shed light on the Space Force’s future plans to buy space launch services as more companies enter the market. Smith has been a longtime critic of the military launch program, arguing that it does not provide enough opportunities for new entrants.
Rep. Adam Smith have a lost cause in trying to get new entrants (really means Below Orbit) into the military launch program. The Juggernaut from Hawthorne effectively can offer launch on demand with a small increase in their boosters fleet size for any potential DoD/NRO payloads. Only with the light orbital launchers can there be new entrants. However the business case don't appear to close for them, IMO. Otherwise why is almost all US launch providers moving up to at least the medium class launchers.

The meme from the first Highlander movie of "There can be Only One!" seems applicable.

Offline su27k

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #3 on: 06/19/2022 03:48 am »
House Armed Services chairman calls on Space Force to change how it buys launch services

Quote from: SpaceNews
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a draft version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act pushes for changes in military launch services procurement, calling on the Space Force to replace the current two-vendor strategy with an open competition model.

<snip>

The language in the 2023 NDAA urges the Space Force to consider other procurement approaches in Phase 3 of the NSSL program in 2024 so more than two companies can win launch contracts.

“It is the sense of Congress that the acquisition approach for Phase 3 of the National Security Space Launch program should account for changes in the launch industry and planned architectures of the Space Force,” according to a draft version of the chairman’s mark, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews.

The Space Force should “explore new and innovative acquisition approaches to leverage launch competition within the commercial market,” says the draft bill.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #4 on: 06/19/2022 09:58 am »
There definitely opportunities in &lt;1200kg LEO missions given number small LVs in this class. DoD are more likely to need a dedicated launch in this class than rideshare. They are also using more smaller cheaper satellites.

SpaceX and ULA should be save from competition with GEO as these are high value satellites and sometimes complicated missions. Blue's NG is only new LV going after this market and they will have tough time breaking into.

RL, Firefly and Relativity with their future reuseable medium class LVs are all contenders for &lt;8000kg LEO missions. Should be able to match or better F9R on price.
« Last Edit: 06/23/2022 11:34 pm by zubenelgenubi »

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #5 on: 06/19/2022 01:45 pm »
House Armed Services chairman calls on Space Force to change how it buys launch services

Quote from: SpaceNews
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a draft version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act pushes for changes in military launch services procurement, calling on the Space Force to replace the current two-vendor strategy with an open competition model.

<snip>

The language in the 2023 NDAA urges the Space Force to consider other procurement approaches in Phase 3 of the NSSL program in 2024 so more than two companies can win launch contracts.

“It is the sense of Congress that the acquisition approach for Phase 3 of the National Security Space Launch program should account for changes in the launch industry and planned architectures of the Space Force,” according to a draft version of the chairman’s mark, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews.

The Space Force should “explore new and innovative acquisition approaches to leverage launch competition within the commercial market,” says the draft bill.
The "Sense of congress" (i.e., Congressman Smith of Washington) is supposed to be interpreted as "buy stuff from BO" and specifically "use New Glenn when it is available." I would hope that USSF can re-interpret this to mean they can change the percentage split (currently 60% ULA 40% SpaceX is a stated policy) to a model that allows competition on price for each launch. The big problem with NSSL phase 3 is that the industry is changing so rapidly that any sort of stable contractual arrangement will be obsolete by the time of the last launch and possibly by the time of the first launch. Starship is the elephant in the room.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #6 on: 06/19/2022 03:28 pm »
The "Sense of congress" (i.e., Congressman Smith of Washington) is supposed to be interpreted as "buy stuff from BO" and specifically "use New Glenn when it is available."

Well Blue Origin did bid for NSSL, but didn't win. So just from a fairness standpoint I think it makes sense to use American taxpayer money to onboard more American launch capability.

Quote
I would hope that USSF can re-interpret this to mean they can change the percentage split (currently 60% ULA 40% SpaceX is a stated policy) to a model that allows competition on price for each launch.

DoD launches have a wider variety of payload requirements than NASA launches, which is really where the variable costs come in. And though DoD may not use the launch costs negotiated by the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract, the U.S. Government is not going to allow for much variance regarding the basic launch costs.

Plus, there are some DoD payloads that could be lifted by New Glenn, but Blue Origin doesn't have the launch pad capabilities to handle the payloads - which is also a challenge for SpaceX, and the reason they are building new Pad 39A infrastructure for Falcon 9/H launches.

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The big problem with NSSL phase 3 is that the industry is changing so rapidly that any sort of stable contractual arrangement will be obsolete by the time of the last launch and possibly by the time of the first launch.

Yeah, something should probably change. I would hope there could be some sort of yearly onboarding of new providers. So that the percentage split is always being adjusted.

Quote
Starship is the elephant in the room.

I think everyone has a better idea about Starship now that we've seen what the true pace of development is, but it is the payloads that drive the launch needs, and Starship will need to become operational before DoD truly invests in Starship-only payloads. And until then the U.S. Government will try to spread the launch work around to keep the existing launch providers available.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #7 on: 06/19/2022 04:58 pm »
The "Sense of congress" (i.e., Congressman Smith of Washington) is supposed to be interpreted as "buy stuff from BO" and specifically "use New Glenn when it is available."
Well Blue Origin did bid for NSSL, but didn't win. So just from a fairness standpoint I think it makes sense to use American taxpayer money to onboard more American launch capability.
Yeah, that was in 2019, and BO protested after they lost. The procurement was for launches starting in 2022 and apparently USSF did not believe BO would be flying New Glenn by 2022.

NSSL needs more launch companies. As of now they have ULA with Atlas V and Delta IV heavy. both being retired, and SpaceX with F9 and FH. The first and only NSSL launch for Atlas V will be in Q4 2022. The remaining three Delta IV heavy launches one per year in (2022, 2023, 2024) are NRO launches (do those count as NSSL?) NSSL is counting on ULA having Vulcan qualified for NSSL, and until that happens they are basically dependent on a single company and a single rocket family.

I disagree about "fairness". It's not fair to the American taxpayer to pay a bunch of extra money for a highly questionable return. It looks more like corporate welfare and zipcode subsidy to me. I feel that alternatives to SpaceX need to be reasonably competitive on price. I suppose I would tolerate a 10% premium to support an alternative provider, but not a 100% premium. If I were SpaceX and confronted with the "alternate provider" argument, I would spin off the F9 business and bid Starship as the competitor.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #8 on: 06/20/2022 12:53 am »
The "Sense of congress" (i.e., Congressman Smith of Washington) is supposed to be interpreted as "buy stuff from BO" and specifically "use New Glenn when it is available."
Well Blue Origin did bid for NSSL, but didn't win. So just from a fairness standpoint I think it makes sense to use American taxpayer money to onboard more American launch capability.
Yeah, that was in 2019, and BO protested after they lost. The procurement was for launches starting in 2022 and apparently USSF did not believe BO would be flying New Glenn by 2022.

And apparently they were right...  :D

Quote
NSSL needs more launch companies.

There is likely a diminishing return as the number of launch companies goes over a certain number, and that number may be 2 or 3.

Plus, some DoD payloads require specialized handling that is not cheap to implement, so it may not make economic sense to have more than 2 or 3 certified to handle those.

Quote
I disagree about "fairness". It's not fair to the American taxpayer to pay a bunch of extra money for a highly questionable return. It looks more like corporate welfare and zipcode subsidy to me.

The USAF has a job to do, and they are always looking for ways to do that job as efficiently and cost effectively as possible, while trying to achieve very high success rates. Of course political influence does get in the way sometimes, but from a non-political view competition should be good, but too much competition for such a small amount of launch "demand" may not be good. It's a balance thing that I don't think we have achieved yet.

But the USAF should be allowed to pursue onboarding new launch entrants, regardless their political connections.

Quote
I feel that alternatives to SpaceX need to be reasonably competitive on price. I suppose I would tolerate a 10% premium to support an alternative provider, but not a 100% premium. If I were SpaceX and confronted with the "alternate provider" argument, I would spin off the F9 business and bid Starship as the competitor.

SpaceX will continue to be the low cost launch provider, and ULA will be the high cost launch provider. So we need someone in the middle that can provide a good enough launch success record that allows the U.S. to have redundancy and "reasonable costs".

Make no mistake though, any new launch entrant is going to be taking away business from ULA, and that is a concern for the USAF, since ULA is the only launch provider CURRENTLY certified to launch all of the payloads USAF needs launched.

And while I think ULA's owners have botched their future by sticking with expendable rockets, the reality is that America needs ULA, so we need to find a way to keep them in business. Horrible as that might sound.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #9 on: 06/20/2022 03:08 am »
Make no mistake though, any new launch entrant is going to be taking away business from ULA, and that is a concern for the USAF, since ULA is the only launch provider CURRENTLY certified to launch all of the payloads USAF needs launched.
ULA has two "certified" launch vehicles and both are out of production and are being retired. All 23 remaining Atlas V and the three remaining Delta IV heavies are already allocated to launches, so they cannot launch all of those payloads. They cannot launch any payloads that are not already contracted for, which appears to be three USSF Atlas V launches, one NRO Atlas V launch, and three NRO Delta IV Heavy launches.

Vulcan is not yet certified.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are both "certified" for NSSL payloads. does USSF have payloads that cannot be launched on these?

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #10 on: 06/20/2022 04:46 am »
Make no mistake though, any new launch entrant is going to be taking away business from ULA, and that is a concern for the USAF, since ULA is the only launch provider CURRENTLY certified to launch all of the payloads USAF needs launched.
ULA has two "certified" launch vehicles and both are out of production and are being retired. All 23 remaining Atlas V and the three remaining Delta IV heavies are already allocated to launches, so they cannot launch all of those payloads. They cannot launch any payloads that are not already contracted for, which appears to be three USSF Atlas V launches, one NRO Atlas V launch, and three NRO Delta IV Heavy launches.

Vulcan is not yet certified.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are both "certified" for NSSL payloads. does USSF have payloads that cannot be launched on these?

Jim could better explain, but you are just focused on the rockets, and forgetting about the infrastructure it takes to mount the payloads and provide "unique" services that commercial payloads don't need. Remember we're talking about USAF & NRO payloads here, with national security hardware.

ULA was built to handle ALL of those payloads, but SpaceX is just now getting ready to build some of the infrastructure needed to handle some of those payloads - not sure if they will be able to handle all of them though.

Maybe Blue Origin is taking those infrastructure needs into account as they build out their launch facilities, but even so they need to get certified by the USAF - or have a plan to get there when they are bidding, like SpaceX was able to do.

So no, it isn't just the rockets that are the concern, but the launch infrastructure.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline butters

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #11 on: 06/20/2022 05:11 am »
In 2026, is NSSL a significant enough sliver of the launch market to matter? Why should launch providers care about NSSL requirements when there's Kuiper and other megaconstellations driving the vast majority of demand growth? Why should Blue Origin support direct-to-GEO missions with a reusable Jarvis upper stage? Why should Rocket Lab scale Neutron to cover the range of NSSL payload classes?

The US military is talking about buying *maybe* 30-34 launches over a five year period. It could be significantly less than that. There could be six missions one year and two missions the next. Amazon placed a firm order for 83 launches over a five year period, and there will be more where that came from. Whose requirements are more important? Who has more clout to drive requirements for launch providers?

ULA supports NSSL requirements. SpaceX had already developed FH and was all but forced to promise a vertical integration tower and a special expendable payload fairing. That's enough providers bending over backwards for a vanishingly small number of snowflake payloads. Other providers should be able to bid on the missions that they are capable of executing.

Blue Origin, in particular, needs to resist the urge to make any more pivots to win a government contract. Forget about the stodgy military customers and skate to where the puck is going.

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #12 on: 06/20/2022 05:23 am »
Make no mistake though, any new launch entrant is going to be taking away business from ULA, and that is a concern for the USAF, since ULA is the only launch provider CURRENTLY certified to launch all of the payloads USAF needs launched.
ULA has two "certified" launch vehicles and both are out of production and are being retired. All 23 remaining Atlas V and the three remaining Delta IV heavies are already allocated to launches, so they cannot launch all of those payloads. They cannot launch any payloads that are not already contracted for, which appears to be three USSF Atlas V launches, one NRO Atlas V launch, and three NRO Delta IV Heavy launches.

Vulcan is not yet certified.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are both "certified" for NSSL payloads. does USSF have payloads that cannot be launched on these?

Jim could better explain, but you are just focused on the rockets, and forgetting about the infrastructure it takes to mount the payloads and provide "unique" services that commercial payloads don't need. Remember we're talking about USAF & NRO payloads here, with national security hardware.

ULA was built to handle ALL of those payloads, but SpaceX is just now getting ready to build some of the infrastructure needed to handle some of those payloads - not sure if they will be able to handle all of them though.

Maybe Blue Origin is taking those infrastructure needs into account as they build out their launch facilities, but even so they need to get certified by the USAF - or have a plan to get there when they are bidding, like SpaceX was able to do.

So no, it isn't just the rockets that are the concern, but the launch infrastructure.
Thanks for the explanation. However, even if ULA has all of the infrastructure that USSF, USAF, and/or NRO will ever need, it is of no use unless they also have a certified launch vehicle. Let's hope Vulcan launches soon and gets certified quickly.

To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #13 on: 06/21/2022 12:41 am »
Thanks for the explanation. However, even if ULA has all of the infrastructure that USSF, USAF, and/or NRO will ever need, it is of no use unless they also have a certified launch vehicle. Let's hope Vulcan launches soon and gets certified quickly.

Right, Atlas V and Delta IV M/H are end of life, so Vulcan is the only way forward for ULA. And Tory Bruno's job, and reputation, is on the line with his decision to rely on Blue Origin.

And yes, I do hope Vulcan launches soon. It looks like a fine expendable rocket, but unfortunately it is an expendable rocket...  :(

Quote
To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

I don't know what situation is with that, but I would have to imagine that Blue Origin worked how things would work with the USAF many years ago, and we just don't know what was decided.

Plus, remember that SpaceX will be launching USAF/NRO payloads from Pad 39A, which is KSC, so maybe this isn't an insurmountable problem?
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Jim

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #14 on: 06/21/2022 01:46 pm »

To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

Based on what?

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #15 on: 06/21/2022 01:53 pm »

To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

Based on what?
Based on a misunderstanding on my part. I thought USSF (or NRO or whoever makes these decisions) preferred to launch from SLC. I now know I was wrong. I should have made it part of the question, not an assertion.

Offline Jim

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #16 on: 06/21/2022 02:07 pm »

To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

Based on what?
Based on a misunderstanding on my part. I thought USSF (or NRO or whoever makes these decisions) preferred to launch from SLC. I now know I was wrong. I should have made it part of the question, not an assertion.

Salt Lake City?

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #17 on: 06/21/2022 02:34 pm »

To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

Based on what?
Based on a misunderstanding on my part. I thought USSF (or NRO or whoever makes these decisions) preferred to launch from SLC. I now know I was wrong. I should have made it part of the question, not an assertion.

Salt Lake City?
I meant a pad whose abbreviation starts with "SLC" (e.g., SLC-40) , which I think means "Space Launch Complex". What I should have said was "Cape Canaveral Space Force Station", which under control of USSF, in contrast to a pad whose abbreviation starts with "LC" (e.g., LC-39A) which is part of "Kennedy Space Center" and is under control of NASA.

Offline Jim

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #18 on: 06/21/2022 02:50 pm »

To participate, BO would need a launch pad and other infrastructure at SLC, right? Their facilities at KSC are not secure enough.

Based on what?
Based on a misunderstanding on my part. I thought USSF (or NRO or whoever makes these decisions) preferred to launch from SLC. I now know I was wrong. I should have made it part of the question, not an assertion.

Salt Lake City?
I meant a pad whose abbreviation starts with "SLC" (e.g., SLC-40) , which I think means "Space Launch Complex". What I should have said was "Cape Canaveral Space Force Station", which under control of USSF, in contrast to a pad whose abbreviation starts with "LC" (e.g., LC-39A) which is part of "Kennedy Space Center" and is under control of NASA.

DOD Shuttle missions STS 51-C, 51-J, 27, 28, 33, 36, 38, 44 & 53 had no issue with using LC-39.  Same with NROL-108 & 76

Online edzieba

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Re: USSF NSSL Phase 3 Launch Service Procurement
« Reply #19 on: 06/22/2022 02:36 pm »
Or the pads at Wallops/MARS, which like KSC is a NASA site rather than Air Force / Space Force, but has hosted NROL launches before.

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