SpaceX beat out United Launch Alliance once again.
Elon Musk’s aerospace company won its first contract to launch a classified military satellite on its Falcon Heavy rocket, beating out ULA, a joint venture between heavy-hitters Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
SpaceX first disrupted ULA’s long-held monopoly on military launch contracts with a contract win in 2016.
The Falcon Heavy rocket is due to launch with the government’s AFSPC-52 satellite in 2020 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The contract, which cost the Air Force $130 million, is actually a much smaller sum than the average cost to launch ULA’s Delta IV.
The Falcon Heavy is not only cheaper to launch, but is also the world’s largest and most powerful rocket, offering it a distinct advantage as SpaceX tries to disrupt launch contracting for both aerospace and national security projects.
“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,” said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell in a statement. “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 rocket for the first time in February after seven years of development and testing. That the company was able to win an Air Force contract is an indication of the government’s confidence in its rocket, and could pave the way for further contracts.