SpaceX lands $130-million Falcon Heavy deal for US Air Force

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 22, 2018

Work will be performed at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Kennedy Space Center and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be completed by September 2020.

Back in 2014, SpaceX chose to sue the USA government after the military gave United Launch Alliance (ULA) a sweetheart deal for sending government payloads into space.

"The competitive award of this EELV launch service contract directly supports Space and Missile Systems Center's (SMC) mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation while maintaining assured access to space", explained John Thompson, lieutenant general and program executive officer.

The Air Force says the contract will provide a "total launch solution for this mission, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations".

The Air Force Space Command-52 satellite flight is believed to be the first time that the Falcon Heavy rocket has competed head-to-head with a United Launch Alliance rocket for a military mission, and obviously it came out on top.

This week's award served as the first indication that the Falcon Heavy had been certified for national security launches.

The Falcon Heavy's next launch is set for later this year.

Three months ago, the Air Force awarded a $354.8 million contract to United Launch Alliance, SpaceX's main competitor, for two launches relating to the AFSPC-8 and AFSPC-12 satellite missions. The announcement did not name the other party, but a report surmised it could be ULA, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. That makes it the most powerful rocket now in operation.

The nearly knee-jerk certification of Falcon Heavy for USAF launches makes for an extraordinary contrast when compared with the certification of SpaceX's Falcon 9 workhorse rocket, a tedious political minefield that took more than two years, led SpaceX to (successfully) sue the federal government, and forced the Air Force to critically reexamine its internal processes after they delayed SpaceX's certification by six or more months. In comparison, the cargoes could be heavier than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel. The rocket comprises three Falcon 9 rocket cores, and is capable of more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is equivalent to about 18 747 aircraft.

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