Saturday, December 08, 2012

SpaceX wins first U.S. military launch contracts

Space Explorations Technologies, better known as SpaceX, which only recently entered into a contract with NASA and began actual flight to the International Space Station (ISS), has scored another company first: it has landed its first U.S. military launch contracts.

The company announced the deals on Wednesday. Both launches will be for the U.S. Air Force.

In 2014, the company will rake in a cool $97 million to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory using a Falcon 9 rocket. The DSCO is a solar telescope that will be operated by NASA.

In 2015, the company will be paid $165 million to launch the military's Space Test Program-2 satellite using its more robust Falcon Heavy rocket.

Both launches will take place from SpaceX's Cape Canaveral, Fla. site.

SpaceX, of course, isn't the first private company to perform such U.S. military launches. United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has held a monopoly until now.

In a statement, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said:
SpaceX deeply appreciates and is honored by the vote of confidence shown by the Air Force in our Falcon launch vehicles.
SpaceX already has a backlog of around 20 commercial and non-U.S. government satellites and payloads to fly on its Falcon and Falcon Heavy rockets over the next five years. That is in addition to its 12-flight, $1.6 billion ISS cargo delivery contract with NASA.

The privately-owned company plans to start using a second launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in 2013.

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