By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N), has won an $882 million contract to continue launching satellites for the U.S. Air Force with its Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The U.S. Defense Department said the contract covers launch capability, mission integration, base and range support, maintenance, depreciation on equipment, mission assurance, program management, systems engineering, and launch site and range operations during fiscal year 2016, which begins Oct. 1.
Air Force and company officials had no immediate comment on how many rocket launches would be included in the contract.
Separately, U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday released a compromise version of the $612 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2016 that would allow ULA to use a total of nine more Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines to compete for military and spy satellite launch contracts using its Atlas V rockets.
ULA and Air Force officials had urged lawmakers to relax a ban on use of the engines imposed last year after Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, to bridge the time until ULA is ready to start flying its new U.S.-powered Vulcan rocket.
The fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill had allowed ULA to use just five engines, but the new bill would add four more.
ULA had argued that it needed to use even more engines to compete with privately held Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which offers lower prices for its Falcon 9 rockets.
The Air Force earlier this year certified SpaceX to compete for some military and spy satellite launches, which would end the monopoly that ULA has had since its creation in 2006.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Diane Craft and Ken Wills)