Air Force green lights bidders for launch program

The Air Force deems all bidders for the Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 contract eligible.

The U.S. Air Force has deemed all bidders for the Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 contract eligible, according to an AviationWeek article. The Air Force declined to say how many bidders there were, and all were reviewed last week.

Winners will be able to compete for Minotaur-class launchers and other specific launches at a later time. The contract will likely be awarded by the end of the year. This will include options for new entrants into the launch market, the article said.

ATK, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences Corp. and SpaceX are all among the likely bidders, according to AviationWeek. United Launch Alliance cannot bid, because the program is reserved for new entrants and the Alliance operates as a monopoly in the United States on large launchers at this time, the article said.

New entrants were to submit with their bid a letter that outlined their plans for their new vehicle’s readiness. The strategy, AviationWeek said, is for the Air Force to let for these new entrants assume authority for missions and help them attain certification, which would possibly let them to compete with the United Launch Alliance for launch missions in the future.