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Lockheed-Boeing venture ULA bags $882-mn contract

October 1
6:34 PM 2015

United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture floated by Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, has bagged a contract worth $882million for launching satellites for the US Air Force with Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. The contract is effective from 1 October and includes launch capability, mission, integration, base and range support, maintenance, depreciation on equipment, mission assurance, program management, systems engineering and launch site and range operations during the 2016 fiscal year, according to US Defense Department. The usage of Atlas V rockets will enable the US Defense Department to compete for military and spy satellite launch contracts. ULA is poised for its latest launch this week and this is its 100th mission this week.

United Launch Alliance and the Air Force officials had been requesting the law-makers to lift the ban on usage of Russian engines. The US government in 2014 imposed ban as part of its sanctions on Russia as it annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine. The 2015 fiscal Defense Authorization Bill allowed United Launch Alliance to use five engines. 

Encouragingly, the new Bill for 2016 has allowed ULAto use four additionally taking the total to nine engines. The US lawmakers have released a compromise version of the $612 billion Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal 2016 and this allowed ULA to use nine Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines.

ULA is gearing up for launching its 100th rocket an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. ULA is planning for celebrating the milestone in its journey. 

Tony Soto, spacecraft integrator for the upcoming launch, said: "From ULA's point of view, every single one of them is important. It's not diminished in our eyes, whether it's the 99th or 101st 102nd - they're all important and especially so to the spacecraft owners."

ULA in September entered into an agreement with Orbital ATK Inc. This strategic agreement is effective in 2019, during which new motors will be ready for launch. As part of the deal, Orbital ATK Inc will provide solid rocket boosters to ULA for Atla V and Vulcan launch vehicles.

Orbital ATK will help ULA in reducing costs as it provides cutting-edge innovation and advanced technologies. ULA has been using rocket motor technology of Orbital ATK for long. ULA has decided to use Orbital's technology in its future rocket launches as well.

Realizing the increased competition in the rocket launching space, ULA had been demanding for permission to use more engines to compete in the market. The privately-held Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is offering an attractive price for Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX has been certified by the Air Force for launching military and spy satellites. This has ended the monopoly that ULA enjoyed ever since its inception in 2006.

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