SpaceX beat out one other competitor to land a $130 million launch contract with the U.S. Air Force using its Falcon Heavy rocket. The award is an important validation of the Falcon Heavy, one of the most powerful rockets ever made.
Under the contract, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company founded by Elon Musk will launch the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite to its intended orbit. The contract includes launch vehicle production and mission, as well as integration, launch operations and spaceflight worthiness activities, according to a notice posted by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The work, which will be performed at SpaceX’s headquarters, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and in McGregor, Texas, is expected to be completed by September 2020. The mission is planned to be launched from Kennedy Space Center.
Two proposals were received by the DOD in the competitive bidding process.
“SpaceX is honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission,” said SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell. “On behalf of all of our employees, I want to thank the Air Force for certifying Falcon Heavy, awarding us this critically important mission, and for their trust and confidence in our company. SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions.”
SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy for the first time (with a Tesla Roadster strapped to the top, no less, because… well, Elon.) in February 2018. The rocket has three cores, or first-stage boosters, that work in unison to get the rocket into a low Earth orbit. There are two side boosters and a center core. SpaceX has designed the rocket so that after stage separation all three boosters will land and be able to be reused. The company recovered two of the three boosters.