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SMC’s Brig. Gen. D. Jason Cothern on Continuing Partnerships With Heavy-Lift Launch Providers

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D. Jason Cothern
D. Jason Cothern Vice Commander SMC

Brig. Gen. D. Jason Cothern, vice commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), said the U.S. Space Force will continue working with launch providers after selecting two contractors for a national security mission.

The Space Force previously awarded contracts to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to utilize the former’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles as well as the ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket for the second phase of the National Security Space Launch mission, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.

As part of Phase 2, ULA and SpaceX’s respective vehicles will launch satellites for national security missions from 2022 to 2027.

Cothern told attendees at a virtual RAND event that the Space Force is not planning to fund program competitors like Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman but will continue to work with them for vehicle certification efforts “at their expense.”

“We believe the current providers address the plans we have today for the near future,” he said. “We start with requirements and architectures, understanding the threats and determining what the requirements and architectures are to meet those threats.”

Cothern’s comments come after RAND released a report earlier this year stating that the U.S. needs at least three domestic providers of heavy-lift launch services through 2023 to ensure space dominance.