Awarded under the U.S. government's Launch Service Agreement, these contract form part of the USA government's attempts to reduce reliance on Russian rockets for launches that are of national importance from a security standpoint.
The funding awards, however, are not necessarily a guarantee that these companies will win launch contracts in the future, the Air Force said in a statement.
The company is one of the three to have won a contract for development aid, with United Launch Alliance (ULA, a joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin) and Northrop Grumman, according to an announcement from the US Air Force on Wednesday.
The Air Force program dates back to 2003, and is an effort to modernize the Air Force's rocket fleet and move it away from its reliance on ULA's Delta II rocket, which was costly, and ULA's Atlas V rocket, which used Russian RD-180 engines. Blue Origin is developing a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.More news: Storm Callum to BATTER Glasgow with heavy rain and strong winds
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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, awarded $500 million for the preliminary work, will build its New Glenn Launch System.
"The LSA partnership enables rapid buildout of NSS-unique New Glenn infrastructure such as vertical payload integration capability and a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base as well as completion of NSS certification activities". New Glenn is described as a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft), two- or three-stage rocket.
The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne's RL10C engine. What would further add to the sting for Elon Musk's company, is the fact that the DOD will be selecting two of these three companies to become official launch providers for the United States government. "Our new OmegA rocket leverages technologies, capabilities and flight experience gained from decades of successful rocket launches, making it an affordable and reliable choice for national security missions".