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The national security space race

A Falcon Heavy rocket launch in June. Photo: SpaceX

Four companies — SpaceX, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Northrop Grumman — have submitted proposals to become 1 of 2 launch providers for the U.S. Air Force from 2022 to 2026.

Why it matters: Launching commercial and government payloads to orbit is a competitive business, and locking in billions of dollars in revenue from the Air Force would be a huge win for any of these companies.

  • In 2020, the Air Force plans to pick 2 companies that will likely split dozens of national security launches 60/40.

The intrigue: All 4 companies have submitted their bids to the Air Force, but the fight to get to this point has been a long one, and it's not over yet.

  • Blue Origin filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office on Monday, saying that the Air Force competition favors the companies that have already flown national security missions like SpaceX and ULA and harms competition.
  • SpaceX has sued the U.S. government, claiming that the company was unfairly denied a share of a multimillion dollar award that the other 3 companies received from the Air Force, potentially putting SpaceX at a disadvantage.