SpaceX Wins Space Force Contract to Launch Two Missions

SpaceX Wins Space Force Contract to Launch Two Missions

SpaceX clinched a $159.7 million contract from the Space Force to launch two missions into orbit by 2023.

The new contract was from the Department of Defense's Space Force, as part of their project dubbed "National Security Space Launch Phase 2." It also granted $224.3 million for United Launch Alliance, a Colorado-based joint venture between Boeing's Defense, Space & Security division and Lockheed Martin Space, created in 2006.


The Pentagon said in their announcement this week SpaceX's work will be performed in Hawthorne, as well as nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to dot.LA's request for comment on the new contracts.

The contracts' contents are largely confidential, so it's unclear exactly what payloads SpaceX and the ULA will be sending into space. It has something to do with the Department of Defense's Warfighter Council, a group that meets twice yearly to evaluate and chart the fledgling Space Development Agency's work to build out the country's military and defense presence in space.

The council was recently created to oversee the U.S.' ongoing work in building out a "national defense space architecture," that includes hundreds of satellites that "gather targeting and tracking information and instantly transmit it to warfighters and weapons systems."

"We are making it possible for our National Security Space team to accomplish our mission of providing on-orbit space capability to the warfighter," U.S. Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise director Robert Bongiovi said in a statement Tuesday. The Space and Missile Systems Center is headquartered not far from SpaceX, at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo.

"We are very pleased with the flexibility offered by our Phase 2 providers to make the best launch choices and adjustments as we proceed," Bongiovi added, speaking about SpaceX and ULA.

Last year, Bongiovi said his goal with the SMC was to embrace private industry and use it to advance the country's launch capabilities. In particular, he said the aim is to "demonstrate rapid, responsive and resilient tactical space launch."

United Launch Services lifts the government to the cosmos using several spacecraft; the Delta IV Heavy, Atlas V and Vulcan Centaur – which is also being tapped for the two new launch contracts.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 spacecraft will take two payloads into space. On one of those launches, USSF-87, SpaceX will also provide mission integration services. On the other mission, it will leave that work to the National Reconnaissance Office, which backed the contract.

United Launch Services' missions are expected to launch in the third fiscal quarter of 2023, while SpaceX's will take place in the fourth quarter.

This is the second Space Force contract for both SpaceX and ULA. In August 2020, the U.S. Dept. of Defense awarded the first three missions of its Phase 2 program. At the time, SpaceX received $316 million for one mission, while ULA got $337 million to launch two.

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Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

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