SpaceX wins US Air Force contract for Falcon Heavy launch

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The Air Force release did not provide a breakdown of the contract.

It's somewhere between hard and impossible to accurately compare the different payloads and launches of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), but SpaceX's only competitor ULA was awarded a contract for the launch of two relatively different AFSPC payloads at an average (fixed) cost of $175 million per mission.

The US Air Force decision signals confidence in the engineering behind the new rocket, which consists of three modified Falcon 9 cores strapped together and flew for the first time in February 2018 after seven years of development and testing.

At the Falcon Heavy's nervy debut, there was some question of who would buy the vehicle. Specifically, the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle into its intended orbit.

It's not immediately clear what role the classified satellite on this mission, AFSPC-52, will play when it is launched in 2020. The mission is planned to be launched from Kennedy Space Center. The entire project is expected to be completed by September 2020. SpaceX in March won a $290 million contract to help launch other satellites as part of the program. The Lockheed Martin and Boeing joint venture previously had a monopoly on the Air Force program meant to launch sensitive payloads into space.

"The competitive award of this EELV launch service contract directly supports Space and Missile Systems Center's mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space", said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force program executive officer for Space and SMC commander. Falcon Heavy is even bigger.

"SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions", said Shotwell. SpaceX's Falcon 9, which has grown increasingly powerful over several design iterations, can already carry most commercial and military satellites. The rocket can lift as much as 141,000 pounds of cargoes.

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