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SDA to Use NSSL Services After Space Force Cuts Price Tag

Launch services deal

SDA to Use NSSL Services After Space Force Cuts Price Tag

The Space Development Agency will no longer procure commercial launch services as it builds its large constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit. Instead, it will buy the needed services through the government’s National Security Space Launch program. SDA Director Derek Tournear made the announcement Wednesday after initially saying that he did not want to use NSSL because it is significantly more expensive than commercial launches.

In an effort to get more services at lower cost, the SDA sought competitive bids to deploy a batch of 28 satellites in late 2022. SpaceX won the contract, SpaceNews reported Wednesday.

The SDA’s decision did not go over well with the U.S. Space Force office that oversees the NSSL program, which needs the Pentagon’s various space organizations to use its services to bring down costs and make the program competitive.

Tournear argued that NSSL customers are forced to pay for additional administrative cost, mission assurance and other markups, making its services prohibitive. He said, however, that a breakthrough was finally reached when the Space Force agreed to remove some of those additional markups and gave SDA a more affordable deal.

Tournear said he could not provide specifics of what costs were taken out of the NSSL’s launch services but said it amounted to “multiple tens of millions of dollars per launch.” The director added that the Space Force removed much of the activities not required by the SDA.

The SDA’s leader said that with the cost reductions approved by the Space Force, the price difference between commercial and NSSL launch services has become “marginal.” Now that the SDA has become a paying customer of the NSSL program, it will have to work with the rocket vendors to make sure that the agency’s spacecraft will match the launch vehicles, Tournear added.

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Category: Speaker News

Tags: Derek Tournear NSSL space Space Development Agency Space Force SpaceNews