Note: This replaces a prior post to reflect new information
Space News is reporting that the Pentagon has decided to break the United Launch Alliance EELV monopoly, and open up the program to competition.
Under the new plan, the Air Force is authorized to proceed with a block buy of “up to” 36 launch cores from current monopoly vendor United Launch Alliance, while at the same time opening up another 14 cores to be purchased competitively. The new era will begin in 2015 with initial launches to be performed in 2017.
Quoting Pentagon Acquisition Czar Frank Kendall who gave notice of the decision in a letter addressed to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley from the Space News article: “My intent with this decision is to maintain required mission assurance, obtain the positive effects of competition as quickly as possible, and also reduce the cost of the launch services we must procure from ULA,”
The decision is a major victory for SpaceX and a long overdue positive step in the EELV program which has witnessed steadily increasing costs which seem to industry trends.
Elon Musk for one, was delighted, stating:
“This is a watershed moment for the US Government’s national security missions. The United States Air Force should be commended for opening launches to new entrants and restoring competition to the EELV program, which benefits the American taxpayer and provides the American warfighter with the best possible solution for true assured access to space. SpaceX looks forward to providing the safest, most reliable and affordable solution for Air Force launches as soon as possible.”
Much more as details unfold.