The United States Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded $297 million in Air Force launch contracts to SpaceX.
The announcement was published on the official DOD website on February 19, 2019. In addition to the $297 million awarded to SpaceX, over $441 million in launch contracts were awarded to industry stalwarts United Launch Alliance.
SpaceX secured launch contracts for the NROL-87, NROL-85 and AFSPC-44 missions. According to the announcement, the company is expected to launch the NROL-87 and NROL-85 missions by no later than December 2021 and the AFSPC-44 mission by February 2021.
United Launch Alliance were awarded the contracts to launch SILENTBARKER and SBIRS GEO-5 with the optional addition of the SBIRS GEO-6 to be confirmed at a later date. The launch of SILENTBARKER is expected no later than March 2022 and the SBIRS GEO-5 launch no later than March 2021.
It is not yet clear which launch vehicles will be used for the four confirmed missions. However, the $297 million price tag for two SpaceX missions indicates they’ll likely both be launched aboard Falcon 9 rockets. All four confirmed missions are expected to be launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The announcement of the $297 million awarded to SpaceX is the result of a protracted effort by the company to be allowed to compete against United Launch Alliance. The industry heavyweight had, for many years monopolised Air Force launch contracts until SpaceX sued for the right to compete in 2014. The DOD announcement confirmed that all six contracts received proposals from both SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.