SpaceX continues to make real progress on its Falcon Heavy project. After successfully launching the new, bigger rocket for the first time earlier this year, the company has landed a $130 million contract to launch a classified military satellite for the US Air Force using the Falcon Heavy. We’re still awaiting SpaceX to announce additional test launches for the Falcon Heavy, which can carry much larger payloads than the standard Falcon 9, while the AFSPC-52 satellite isn’t scheduled to launch until 2020.
SpaceX’s bid for the contract also beat out United Launch Alliance and their own Delta 4 heavy rocket, which is said to cost roughly $350 million to launch. Reducing government costs is exactly what was in mind, as Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center stated at the announcement of the SpaceX contract that it “fits the mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space.”
SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell also thanked the Air Force for their “trust and confidence” in the Falcon Heavy program:
“SpaceX is honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission. I want to thank the Air Force for certifying Falcon Heavy, awarding us this critically important mission, and for their trust and confidence in our company. SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions.”
Two more Falcon Heavy launches are scheduled to take place before the end of the year, the first being an assortment of over two dozen smaller satellites, and the second for a commercial satellite.