SpaceX gets its first national security launch

Image: DSCOVR launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches the Deep Space Climate Observatory for NOAA, NASA and the Air Force in February 2015. SpaceX has launched payloads for the Air Force previously, but now it’s been chosen for the launch of a national security payload. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX today won an $82.7 million contract to launch a GPS-3 navigational satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force, marking the first national security mission for the California-based company.

The award was virtually in the bag for SpaceX because United Launch Alliance, the only other company certified to launch national security payloads, dropped out of the competition last November.

At the time, ULA said it couldn’t submit a compliant bid because of federal restrictions on the use of Russian-made RD-180 engines. But last month, a ULA vice president said his company was actually seeking to avoid a “cost shootout” with SpaceX.

The vice president of engineering, Brett Tobey, resigned after his remarks went public.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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