Space Force Approves Blue Origin and Stoke Space for Rapid-Launch Bidding

Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and Stoke Space’s Nova rocket. (Blue Origin / Stoke Space Illustrations)

The U.S. Space Force has added Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture and Stoke Space, a startup that’s headquartered nearby in Kent, Wash., to a list of eligible providers for rapid-response, small-satellite launch services.

The designation means the two rocket companies are cleared to compete for launches under the terms of the Space Force’s Orbital Services Program 4.

“OSP-4 is available to our partners across the DoD [Department of Defense] with an emphasis on small orbital launch capabilities and launch solutions for Tactically Responsive Space mission needs,” Lt. Col. Steve Hendershot, chief of the Space Systems Command’s Small Launch and Targets Division, said in a news release.

The OSP-4 contract has a $986 million ceiling for tasks to be awarded through October 2028. Seven missions have been awarded to date, amounting to more than $190 million. Last year’s Victus Nox mission, conducted in partnership with Firefly Aerospace and Millennium Space Systems, serves as an example of an OSP-4 project. Victus Nox was aimed at testing the Space Force’s ability to replace a damaged satellite in a short time frame.

Neither Kent-based Blue Origin nor Stoke Space has launched an orbital mission yet, but the OSP-4 program is open to emerging providers that expect to be able to send payloads to orbit within a year or so. The mission requirements aren’t typically as strict as they are for the National Security Space Launch program (for which Blue Origin became qualified last month).

The first launch of Blue Origin’s orbital-class New Glenn rocket is currently scheduled for September, with the goal of sending a pair of robotic probes to study Mars’ magnetosphere for NASA’s EscaPADE mission. Stoke Space is developing its Nova rocket at its headquarters and at its test facility in Moses Lake, Wash., and is targeting 2025 for its first orbital test launch. Just last month, Stoke Space reported a successful test of Nova’s first-stage rocket engine.

Ten other launch providers are on the list for the OSP-4 program: ABL Space Systems, Aevum, Astra, Firefly Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Relativity Space, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and X-Bow.

Check out these updates from Blue Origin and Stoke Space:

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