SpaceX Lands $130m Military Launch Contract For Falcon Heavy
The Air Force announced this week the $130 million contract to send a classified satellite to space on its monster Falcon Heavy rocket. The satellite, known as AFSPC-52, is scheduled to launch in 2020. SpaceX beat out the United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which was angling to use its own heavy-lift Delta 4 rocket to send the military satellite to space.
According to Space News, the average cost of a Delta 4 launch is around $350 million, which may explain why the Air Force is going for the relatively untested Falcon Heavy—it is a lot cheaper.
By awarding the launch to SpaceX, the US Air Force is giving the company a vote of confidence in a rocket that has only launched once so far. The first Falcon Heavy lifted off back in February, and while the center rocket booster botched its landing at sea, everything else about the rocket performed up to expectations, according to SpaceX.
“SpaceX is honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission,” SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. “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.”
Falcon Heavy’s next scheduled launch — its second to date — is Air Force’s Space Test Program Flight 2 scheduled for October, an experimental mission that will see the Heavy carry 25 small satellites into space.
It will also perform a satellite launch for a Saudi Arabian company toward the end of the year.