The Wall Street Journal [subscription required] reports today that the federal government—both the Defense Department and the Federal Trade Commission—are wrapping up an agreement that would permit the formation of the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that would combine the government launch operations of the two companies. That agreement, due to be completed in the next few weeks, would apparently address concerns by Northrop Grumman in particular that the ULA would give the satellite manufacturing divisions of Boeing and Lockheed a leg up on competing for government satellite contracts. The article adds that the deal will include “safeguards” for the Air Force regarding “future launch costs, corporate investments and how to deal with potential future competitors.” That last point would seem to address SpaceX, the only domestic launch services company that is targeting the EELV-class market in the foreseeable future, although the report doesn’t mention SpaceX by name and what role, if any, they’ve played in getting that provision in place. (Remember that SpaceX has sued Boeing and Lockheed, trying to block the formation of the joint venture.)
While the Journal is optimistic that a deal is nearly complete, the Chicago Tribune takes a more pessimistic tack, noting that there has been no overt progress on such a deal, and that unless the government approves the deal by Friday (unlikely), either side can pull out. Even if the deal wins government approval, the Tribune notes, that “does not guarantee the deal will be completed” depending on the terms of the agreement.