Capitol Hill budget battle may limit initial funding of some National Security Space Launch missions – Spaceflight Now | Space

20231107 Nssl Phase 2 Oy5 Missions.jpg

A ULA Vulcan rocket during a testing campaign (left) and a Falcon Heavy rocket at liftoff (right). Both launch vehicles were tapped to launch National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions during the fifth and final ordering year procurement by the U.S. Space Systems Command. Images: ULA, SpaceX.

The U.S. Space Systems Command revealed the details of its latest batch of launch contracts for national security missions shared between United Launch Alliance and SpaceX.

This marks the fifth and final year of the Phase 2 National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Service Task Order awards has been issued. It also sets the stage for more launch companies to join in the mix in the future. NSSL missions help protect U.S. assets both in orbit as well as on the ground. They also host technology demonstrations and advancements in various defense capabilities.

However, financial uncertainty on Capitol Hill means that not all of the proposed missions may get funding for some time, including a demonstration of a nuclear thermal rocket.

Among the 21 missions that have been assigned to ULA and SpaceX, only eight are anticipated to be ordered under a continuing resolution scenario, according to the U.S. Space Systems Command:


  • GPS III-9 (Vulcan – Eastern Range)
  • USSF-57 (Vulcan – Eastern Range)
  • NROL-73 (Vulcan – Western Range)


  • SDA T1TL-F (Falcon 9 – Western Range)
  • SDA T1TR-A (Falcon 9 – Western Range)
  • NROL-77 (Falcon 9 – Eastern Range)
  • SDA T1TR-E (Falcon 9 – Western Range)
  • GPS III-10 (Falcon 9 – Eastern Range)

The Space Development Agency’s (SDA) T1TL-F mission is the sixth and final mission of the Tranche 1 Transport Layer launches, which “will provide assured, resilient, low-latency military data and connectivity worldwide to the full range of warfighter platforms,” according to SSC. T1TR-A and T1TR-E are the two final Tranche 1 Tracking Layer launches, which “provide global indications, warning, tracking, and targeting of advanced missile…

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