Elon Musk’s $130m military contract revealed

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Wins US Air Force Launch Contract Worth $130 Million

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.

The firm-fixed-price contract covers launch vehicle manufacturing, spaceflight worthiness activities, integration and launch operations support for the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite, the Defense Department said Thursday.

This mission is planned to be launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The $130 million contract stipulates that SpaceX will launch the Falcon Heavy on a military mission in two years' time. The launch will cost the United States government about $130 million, according to a statement by the USAF.

It's not immediately clear what role the classified satellite on this mission, AFSPC-52, will play when it is launched in 2020.

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

Many are heralding the announcement as a major step for SpaceX, as the AirForce certified the Falcon Heavy after just one test flight. According to the publication Spacenews, this is the first military contract for SpaceX Falcon Heavy. The catch here is that an SLS launch is expected to cost about seven times the cost of a Falcon Heavy launch. Sources in the industry have told Quartz that if SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is successful, it could replace the Delta IV on cost grounds, alone.

When SpaceX debuted the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, one of the biggest questions concerned who, exactly, would use the large booster and its 27 engines. Known as Space Test Mission-2 (STP-2), Falcon Heavy will be tasked with carrying a stack of dozens of different smallsats to a variety of orbits.

Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy? SpaceX expects the work for the contract to be complete in around two years.

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