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Orbital ATK, SpaceX contracted for EELV rocket prototypes

By Ryan Maass   |   Jan. 14, 2016 at 1:51 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- ATK Launch Systems and SpaceX have each been contracted to develop prototype rocket engines for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

Under a $47 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, ATK Launch Systems, a subsidiary of Orbital ATK, will develop three rocket propulsion system prototypes. SpaceX was awarded a $33.6 million contract to develop the Raptor rocket propulsion system prototype.

Orbital ATK's prototypes include the GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, intended for use on United Launch Alliance's Vulcan launch vehicle, the Common Booster Segment solid rocket motor, and an Extendable Nozzle to be used for Blue Origin's BE-3U upper-stage engine. The propulsion systems will be used on a next-generation launch vehicle developed by Orbital ATK.

Under the contract, ATK Launch Systems is contributing $31 million. The total potential government investment, including all options, is over $180 million, and total potential investment by ATK Launch Systems, including all options, is over $124 million.

SpaceX's Raptor engine prototype is intended for use on the upper-stage of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. SpaceX is contributing over $67 million. Total potential government investment, including all options, is over $61 million, and total potential investment by SpaceX, including all options, is over $122 million.

The development comes as part of the Defense Department's effort to transition away from using Russian-made RD-180 engines in favor of a domestic alternative for national security space launches.

The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program is part of the U.S. Air Force's spacelift modernization program. The program aims to reduce the costs and increase the reliability of launches by at least 25 percent over Atlas, Delta and Titan space launch system.

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