A joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing was officially announced to the world early on Friday.
A joint press conference was been called with less than 24 hours notice – according to employees leaving work on Thursday – for 8:30am Eastern on Friday, announcing that the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will begin its first day of official operations on Monday. (Article updated below following press conference).
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The joining of forces will combine the production, engineering, test and launch operations associated with US government launches of Boeing Delta and Lockheed Martin Atlas launch vehicles.
‘With this merger we have combined the launch capabilities of Boeing and Lockheed Martin to create a very capable family of rockets that will support our country’s space needs for the 21st century,’ said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney.
‘I am grateful to all of the employees who have remained focused on mission success and continued to deliver to our customer despite the distractions of the merger process.’
‘On behalf of all Lockheed Martin employees and shareholders, I would like to thank the many government agencies that were involved in reviewing this very complex and important transaction,’ said Bob Stevens, Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO.
‘Formation of ULA is essential if our country is to meet its requirements for assured access to space in the 21st century. I have the fullest confidence that ULA and its employees will meet our country’s launch needs in a cost effective and reliable manner. This is clearly an important day for our nation.’
The formation of the ULA has been greeted by a mixed reaction from employees, given the merger is likely to see an unknown number of employees relocated, mainly from California to Denver, Colorado – and largely to Decatur, Alabama.
However, the joining of forces – between Boeing Integrated Defense Systems’ Expendable Launch Systems division and by Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Company – is noted by its leaders as vital for the future of the EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) business, which is set to save around $150m a year.
The official birth of ULA has been a long, drawn out process, due primarily to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) needing to clear the alliance through an anti-trust clearance proceedure, with protests coming from rival launch companies, such as SpaceX.
FTC clearance was forthcoming a month ago, with the time spent up to this point allowing the ULA to move forward into a fully functioning launch service provider. The ULA was initially revealed back on May 2.
‘The Lockheed Martin and Boeing employees who will be part of this new launch provider understand the enduring needs of our Air Force and NASA customers for mission success,’ said Michael C. Gass, ULA president and chief executive officer earlier in the year, following his move from Lockheed Martin.
‘They bring together a remarkable record of accomplishment in launching national-security and scientific space payloads.’
The US Air Force took little time in putting their money where their mouth is, with an announcement this month of a $674m deal with Boeing for a 16-month period and provides the infrastructure required for launch capability to support four launches per year, with one of those from the west coast. Earlier in the year, the USAF awarded a similar contract to Lockheed Martin.
Head of Air Force space acquisitions, Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, noted: ‘We’re prepared immediately to hit the ground running with them,’ and that the contract was an important step to finalizing the creation of the ULA.
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