Air Force awards big launch contracts to SpaceX and ULA

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This is the fourth competition under the current Phase 1A EELV procurement where there has been more than one competitor for national security space missions.

WASHINGTON — The Air Force on Wednesday awarded two major launch contracts to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.

Under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, SpaceX received a $290 million firm-fixed-price contract for three GPS 3 missions. ULA was awarded a $351 million firm-fixed-price deal for Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites launches.

The contracts include launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations and spaceflight certification. The missions will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

This is the fourth competition under the current Phase 1A EELV procurement where there has been more than one competitor for national security space missions.

The three GPS 3 missions are planned between late 2019 and 2020.

The AFSPC-8 mission has two identical Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites, known as GSSAP 5 and 6. AFSPC-8 would launch in 2020 into a geosynchronous orbit.

The AFSPC-12 mission has a forward and an aft space vehicle. The forward vehicle is known as the “wide field of view” testbed and the aft vehicle is a propulsive EELV secondary payload adapter that hosts auxiliary payloads. AFSPC-12 would launch in 2020 into a geosynchronous orbit.

Lt Gen John F. Thompson, Air Force program executive officer for space and commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, said the competitive award of these two EELV launch service contracts supports the military’s larger effort to bring “affordable space capabilities” to the nation.