Air Force contracts for next generation space launch propulsion system

June 25 (UPI) — Aerojet Rocketdyne has been awarded a contract for rocket propulsion engine development for the U.S. Air Force.

The deal, announced Friday by the Department of Defense, is valued at more than $69.8 million under the terms of a modified contract that enables Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop the “AR1 booster engine and the RL10CX upper stage engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program,” the Pentagon said.

The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle provides the U.S. “assured access to space,” said a U.S. Air Force fact sheet. The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, program has conducted more than 70 launches to support the U.S. Air Force, Navy and National and National Reconnaissance Office.

The contract is part of a mandate under Section 1604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015. Section 1604 requires the U.S. military to begin developing a “next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches.”

Work on the contract will occur in multiple locations across the United States and is expected to be complete in December 2019, with the work on the RL10CX upper stage engine slated to be complete in December 2021.

More than $63 million will be obligated to Aerojet Rocketdyne at time of award — the funds will be allocated from fiscal year 2017 research, development, test and evaluation. In additional, $20 million will also be obligated to the company from fiscal year 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds, the Pentagon said.

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