The U.S. Air Force Space Command has awarded SpaceX a $130 million-dollar contract for the Falcon Heavy Rocket which the service will use to launch Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-52 satellite. This was the first large classified military contract for the company.
The Falcon Heavy beat United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 in a competition under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The launch will take place at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles announced the contract award on Thursday. SMC Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson said this was “another opportunity to foster competition on the EELV program in an effort to reduce launch costs while maintaining assured access to space.”
This is the fifth competitive procurement under the current Phase 1A of the EELV program since SpaceX entered the market to challenge ULA. The $130 million award for the Falcon Heavy launch is considerably lower than the average $350 million price tag for Delta 4 launches.
AFSPC-52 is a classified mission projected to launch in late Fiscal Year 2020.
SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement that the company is “honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission.” She said the contract award indicates the military’s “trust and confidence” in the company.
Falcon Heavy also in on track to launch the U.S. Air Force’s STP-2 technology demonstration mission, currently scheduled for October.
The Air Force released the solicitation of the AFSPC-52 mission September 28 and proposals were due October 30.
The Air Force’s Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., the military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, stated that he’s confident the cost of military launches will continue to go down, citing competition and the commercial demand.
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Photo courtesy SpaceX