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Orbital ATK, SpaceX Get Contracts for Rocket Engine Prototypes

The U.S. Air Force has awarded contracts to Orbital ATK and SpaceX to develop prototypes of new U.S.-built rocket engines under a broader effort aimed at ending reliance on Russian-made engines, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

Orbital ATK won an initial contract worth $47 million to develop three rocket propulsion system prototypes for the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, with the company slated to invest $31 million, according to the Defense Department's daily digest of major contract awards.

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It said the total potential government investment under the contract, including all options, was $180 million, with Orbital ATK slated to contribute a total of $125 million, including all options.

The contract, which runs through Dec. 30, 2019, calls for development of prototypes of Orbital's GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, the Common Booster Segment solid rocket motor and an Extendable Nozzle for the BE-3U upper stage engine built by Blue Origin, a company founded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

SpaceX won an initial contract valued at $33.6 million to develop a prototype of the Raptor rocket propulsion system for the upper stage of the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, with total government investment to reach $61 million, including all options, the Air Force said.

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