US Air Force decided about awarding Orbital ATK and SpaceX with contracts for new propulsion for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV).
New technologies are closing. After decision of continuing developing American made engine for future launch vehicles, new funds were again assigned. After awarding Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman and Orbital ATK (You can read more here and here) just before Christmas 2015, US Air Force decided to support next companies developing rocket propulsion technologies. This time money were assigned to SpaceX and again to Orbital ATK. Contract for SpaceX is valued now for $33.6 million with potential extending for additional $61 million. Orbital ATK was awarded with $346.9 million with possibility of extending for $180 million. SpaceX will utilize funds from US Air force for developing methane fueled Raptor engine, which will be adopted to Falcon-9 and Falcon Heavy upper stages; Raptor engine is also crucial part of future SpaceX launch vehicle for Mars mission. Orbital ATK will use funds for developing own solid fueled rocket booster GEM-63XL. It is planned that this booster will be used for supporting launches of new United Launch Alliance rocket, Vulcan, and possibly will replace Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A used for Atlas V in years 2018-2019. According to official statement from Orbital ATK website, GEM-63XL is developed especially for “soft” launches during crewed missions – probably booster will go through human-rating certification just after final tests. Orbital ATK will also help in BE-3 engine, developed by Blue Origin also for Vulcan. They will design expandable nozzle for BE-3U engine, which is version designed for upper stage of the Vulcan. It is worth to mention that Orbital ATK is also contracted for developing solid boosters for SLS, so it is possible that technology used for GEM-63XL will be utilized partially in SLS booster. Of course all these objectives are also benefit for Orbital ATK. Both GEM-63XL and BE-3U are planned to be utilized in future for new rocket by Orbital ATK.
It seems that both companies are lucky. On 13 January 2015 they won contracts for propulsion developing and yesterday, along with Sierra Nevada Corporation, they were awarded with CRS 2 contracts. But another winner is ULA. It seems that after contracting next twenty RD-180 engines for Atlas V, their new Vulcan rocket will be partially donated with public funds. Orbital ATK costs of developing new booster will not affect ULA in such scale as it will be without US Air Force money. It seems that whole program of supporting domestic rocket propulsion technologies is working well, money are transferred to commercial sector with impressive speed – hopefully results will come with same speed.