The Space Force in 2024 expects to broaden the pool of companies who can provide military space launch services in a bid to build flexibility and drive down costs.

The Space Force released a solicitation in October for the third phase of its National Security Space Launch block-buy contract and plans to award contracts in two batches — one group in the spring and a second in the fall.

The spring awards are for what the service is calling “Lane 1″ missions. These are commercial-like missions with requirements that can be met by smaller launch companies who aren’t certified to fly more rigorous defense missions.

The Space Force intends to award an open-ended contract for Lane 1, without a cap on the number of companies it could choose.

The second lane is reserved for more demanding missions with more challenging requirements, similar to the current Phase 2 contract shared by the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. The Space Force anticipates awarding these launches to three providers.

Col. Doug Pentecost, deputy program executive officer for assured access to space, said in October the decision to allow more companies to support the Defense Department’s launch needs is intended to improve resiliency and affordability.

“This transformative strategy ensures our ability to secure our nation’s interests by creating a more resilient space architecture through proliferation, disaggregation and orbital diversity,” he said in a statement.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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