Back in May 2005, DID discussed Boeing & Lockheed’s plans to merge their space launch units into a single joint venture company. That effort has been on hold for quite some time now, but the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just granted anti-trust clearance to proceed toward closure of the United Launch Alliance (ULA), subject to compliance with a consent order that both parties have already approved. See full FTC release, including consent order details.
The FTC action is the final step in the government’s regulatory process. Boeing “expects that the remaining requirements will be successfully resolved to enable the transaction to be completed and ULA operations to begin.” If so, future launches of Boeing’s Delta and Lockheed’s Atlas rockets would all fall under ULA’s umbrella. The companies said they expect the joint venture to generate $1.5 – $2.0 billion in revenue per year, while saving the government $100 – $150 million a year. Some observers are skeptical concerning the latter claim, though it should be noted that the firms have a similar joint venture to manage the day-to-day operations of NASA’s Space Shuttle program.
September 27/15: Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings is reportedly considering raising its unsolicited bid price for the United Launch Alliance joint venture, despite a very public rejection of its first $2 billion bid, made earlier this month, by both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. A further setback for the company occurred last week when ULA signed an agreement with Orbital ATK as the company’s exclusive provider of solid fuel boosters, side-lining Aerojet Rocketdyne in the process.
September 10/15: Aerojet Rocketdyne submitted a bid on Wednesday to buy United Launch Alliance. The Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture is competing with SpaceX for US Air Force launch contracts, following the latter’s certification in May. The $2 billion bid comes amid concern from ULA’s two patrons over the use of the firm’s Russian-manufactured RD-180 rockets for military and intelligence satellite launches, with Congress ordering a stop to their use from 2019. The Air Force released an RFP in July for a replacement engine, with Aerojet Rocketdyne previously offering its AR-1 engine to ULA as a replacement for the RD-180s; however, ULA opted for a Blue Origin design in September 2014.