SpaceX Secures $82 Million Military Contract To Launch GPS Navigation Satellite
Elon Musk makes history by breaking a military contract monopoly now that SpaceX won one to launch a global positioning system (GPS satellite).
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has just received a fixed-price military contract worth $82.7 million for a GPS satellite to be brought to space through Falcon 9 sometime in May 2018. The costs will be used to build the rocket and certification for spaceflight, along with operations launch.
"GPS 3 is the next generation of GPS satellites that will introduce new capabilities to meet the higher demands of both military and civilian users," read the air force's statement.
The satellite will perform a variety of security-related functions including preventing jamming and improving the precision or accuracy of both navy and air force navigations.
However, the awarding is currently overshadowed by what analysts call a break of the virtual monopoly by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which together have formed United Launch Alliance (ULA).
ULA has basically been the leader of expandable launch systems including bringing national security satellites into space, with $70 billion worth of contracts until 2030. Although SpaceX has been in the aerospace business for about 14 years, it was primarily serving NASA. It was only in May 2015 when the air force certified for national security satellites.
To be fair, ULA didn't try to secure such contact because of accounting system issues, although it could also be because at the time of the bidding, the United States had imposed restrictions on Russian-made engines called RD-180, which are used in some of the ULA's rockets. It's currently unclear whether or not ULA will participate in at least eight more possible launch contracts.
Further, the government intends to conduct a "competitive" selection process to drive down launch costs. The objective fits well with the business model of SpaceX that desires to spend less on space travel and make it more affordable.
"This GPS III Launch Services contract award [also] achieves a balance between mission success [and] meeting operational needs," said Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, air force space's program executive officer.
SpaceX is also planning to launch the first-ever Red Dragon mission to Mars by 2018 in preparation for possible human colonization in the planet.