The United States Department of Defense announced March 9 that it had awarded over $380 million in contracts for the launch of four national security missions.
In August 2020, the Defense Department selected United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX to receive contracts for a block of 30 to 35 missions for Phase Two of its National Security Space Launch program. Under the selection conditions, ULA was awarded 60% of the phase two missions with SpaceX is set to launch the remaining 40%.
The March 9 Defense Department announcement revealed that ULA will receive $224.2 million to launch the USSF-112 and USSF-87 missions. SpaceX will receive $159.7 million for the launch of USSF-36 and NROL-69.
Three of four missions will be launched on behalf of the US Air Force. The fourth, NROL-29, will be launched on behalf of the secretive US National Reconnaissance Office. All four missions are slated to be launched before the end of 2023.
Although not confirmed by the announcement, the two ULA missions will likely be launched aboard the company’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is set to enter service in the fourth quarter of this year.
Although the two missions awarded to SpaceX could be launched aboard either the Falcon 9 or the Falcon Heavy, the award amount points to the former.
The first phase two mission, USSF-67, is expected to be launched aboard a Falcon Heavy with an extended fairing in the third quarter of 2022. SpaceX received $317 million for the launch of USSF-67. With SpaceX receiving just $159.7 million to launch two missions, it is unlikely that either will be hitching a ride to orbit aboard a Falcon Heavy.