Breaking the long-standing Boeing-Lockheed monopoly on military space...
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has won an $82.7 million contract with the US Air Force to launch a GPS satellite.
The first such military contract Elon Musk's company has landed breaks the stranglehold that Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp have had on military space for over a decade.
The amount will cover production of a Falcon 9 rocket, spacecraft integration, launch operations and spaceflight certification.
SpaceX's satellite, which was initially delayed during the Bush administration, will be launched in May 2018 from Florida, according to the Wednesday announcement from Air Force officials.
The United Launch Alliance - the partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin - did not compete for the contract due to a combination of accounting issues, trade sanctions limiting imports of Russian-made engines and, according to ULA's former vice president, cut-rate pricing from SpaceX.
Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, head of the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Centre, said:
"This GPS III launch services contract award achieves a balance between mission success, meeting operational needs, lowering launch costs, and reintroducing competition for national security space missions".
With the US Air Force planning to solicit bids for eight more contracts to launch satellites between now and 2018, it is an important foot in the door for Musk's company.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 with the primary aim of providing affordable space travel to Mars.
On Wednesday, the company announced their plans to send an unmanned version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018 to accomplish a propulsive soft landing. It would be the first private mission to the Red Planet.