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RAND Study: Air Force Needs Third Domestic Provider as Fallback in National Security Space Market

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An independent study by RAND says the U.S. Air Force should back three local launch providers to ensure continued access to space over the next 10 years, SpaceNews reported Sunday.

Supporting three domestic launch companies until 2023 would be “prudent preparation for a future with only two U.S. providers of [National Security Space]-certified heavy lift launch, at least one of which may have little support from the commercial marketplace” and would provide the firms time “to adapt and position themselves in the launch markets and allows market forces (not the USAF) to determine which firms are strongest, and thus survive, and which should exit,” Rand said in the study.

The Air Force asked RAND to carry out an analysis of the heavy-lift space launch market in response to concerns about the second phase of its Launch Service Procurement program.

The service plans this year to award fixed-price contracts to two domestic commercial service providers that can launch national security payloads through 2027. Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin are vying for the two Phase 2 LSP contracts.