Blue Origin and Stoke Space Technologies — both of which have not yet reached orbit — have received approval from the Space Force to compete for upcoming launches of small payloads, as announced today by Space Systems Command (SSC).

These two companies have been awarded indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contracts in the „second on ramp” phase for contractors for the Orbital Services Program (OSP)-4, which is a part of SSC’s Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP).

RSLP enables the swift acquisition of launch services to fulfill mission requirements for payloads weighing 400 pounds or more, allowing launches within 12-24 months from the task order award. The SSC announcement elaborates that task orders under the contract can be customized to meet tighter timelines for Tactically Responsive Space missions or other needs.

The OSP-4 contract structure was created by the Space Force to enable both established launch providers and up-and-coming companies — those deemed to be approximately a year away from launch capability — to compete for individual task orders for missions that do not necessitate services under the more critical National Space Security Launch (NSSL) program.

„RSLP continues to complement the National Security Space Launch Program, offering access to a broad range of solutions that may not be accessible via other programs. We are recognized for our longstanding support of orbital and suborbital launch requirements, including both experimental and operational missions,” noted Lt. Col. Steve Hendershot, chief of SSC’s Small Launch and Targets Division.

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos, is currently targeting a first flight of its New Glenn heavy-lift rocket on Sept. 29 for a NASA Mars exploration mission. New Glenn’s development has faced several technical challenges and scheduling delays, having originally been planned for a 2020 launch.

Stoke Space Technologies announced on June 11 that it had successfully conducted a test firing of its „fully reusable” Nova rocket and aims for its first orbital test launch sometime next year. This small startup, headquartered near Seattle, Washington, was established in 2019 and recently welcomed retired Lt. Gen. John Shaw, former US Space Command deputy, to its advisory board.

These two entities join 10 other vendors in the OSP-4 pool: ABL Space Systems, Aevum, Astra, Firefly Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Relativity Space, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and X-Bow. SSC initially awarded contracts under the program in 2019, followed by three more in 2021.


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