The Air Force has released a request for proposal for its next iteration of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, known as EELV, to be used on space lift such as the Atlas V, Delta IV, and Falcon 9 rocket systems.
The service said Thursday it plans to award "at least three agreements" for prototype development as part of its Launch Services Agreement strategy.
The news comes amid the Air Force's attempt to move away from its use of Russian-made RD-180 engines.
Following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Congress mandated through the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act -- as well as succeeding NDAAs -- that the EELV program would function as the program's transition from RD-180 engines to American-made launch solutions.
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For example, the United Launch Alliance-made Atlas V launch system uses the Russian-designed and engineered RD-180 booster. ULA, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, makes the Delta IV and Atlas V in Alabama.
Through public-private partnership with industry, the "goal of the EELV acquisition strategy is to leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers that also meet [National Security Space] requirements," the RFP states.
The awards will be announced no later than 2020 in time for launches in 2022, the RFP added.