US Air Force picks SpaceX for 2020 satellite launch

Back in 2014, SpaceX decided to sue the US government after the military gave United Launch Alliance (ULA) a sweetheart deal for sending government payloads into space. The reason was simple: a complete lack of competition for 36 launches. The end result was a settlement and SpaceX receiving certification for launches. As CNN reports, SpaceX’s lawsuit was worth the effort as the US Air Force just opted to award SpaceX a contract for the launch of a military satellite in 2020. The only other bidder, ULA, was unsuccessful and isn’t commenting. This counts as SpaceX’s second military contract, but the first that will use a Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. The Air Force refers to it as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch service contract. SpaceX has been awarded a “$130 million firm-fixed price contract for launch services to deliver Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-52 satellite to the intended orbit.” It sees the company provide a total launch solution with the launch happening at some point in 2020 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The AFSPC-52 is part of a classified mission, so we have no idea what systems it will be carrying into orbit. However, it will be operated by the Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which specializes in, “Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.”

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