US Air Force wants to include Private Insurance in Future Rocket Contracts

US Air Force wants to include Private Insurance in Future Rocket Contracts

On Tuesday, the US Air Force said that it may need private insurance as part of future contracts to make sure that the companies launching military satellites into orbit can survive even if one of their rockets gets exploded, causing a long halt in launches.

General John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, told reporters that he was hoping to receive multiple responses to a draft request for proposals that were issued on Friday. They were issued for a new program meant to end US reliance on the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine.

Hyten said the initial work would be funded by competition as it will launch providers and engine makers on prototypes for new rockets that could be used in launching the full range of US military and intelligence satellites into orbit. This will be followed by awards for competitive launches from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2022.

United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. Presently, it is the sole launcher of US military and spy satellites, but one of its two rockets has been using the Russian RD-180 engine, which is banned for national security launches after 2019.

The Air Force is expecting to certify privately held SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, by June in order to compete for at least some of those launches.

Hyten said the government is in need of a new approach to reflect the emergence of a commercial launch industry while still giving the industry assured access to space by at least two providers.

Furthermore, he said that the terms of future contracts are required to include some private insurance or public indemnification clause to make sure that at least two launch providers survive even in the event of an accident that halted launches for some time.

According to the notice on a federal website late on Friday, the responses to the draft request for proposals are due by May 11.

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