Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been awarded a $653 million launch contract by the US Air Force as part of the latter’s multibillion-dollar launch capability program.
Along with SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), an American spacecraft launch service provider that manufactures and operates a number of rocket vehicles, has also been awarded the contract as part of the combined military launch contract.
According to the contract, SpaceX and ULA will deliver around 34 rockets from 2022 to 2027.
The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy Rockets of SpaceX will be utilized to deliver approximately 40% of the US Air Force’s requirements in the coming years.
The US has been depending largely on Russian made rockets (RD-180 engines) for its official launches. In a 2014 mandate, the US Congress had taken the decision to reduce this dependency and transition towards US-made rockets to launch highly sensitive payloads of national security into space.
Air Force’s acquisition chief Will Roper said, “The program, called National Security Space Launch Phase 2, is aimed at building a competitive industry base that we hope doesn’t just help military and national security missions, but that helps our nation continue to compete and dominate in space.”
Blue Origin, the space company of Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com had also competed for the contracts. Though disappointed, Blue Origin Chief Executive Bob Smith said in a statement that the company will continue to develop its heavy-lift New Glenn rocket “to fulfill our current commercial contracts, pursue a large and growing commercial market, and enter into new civil space launch contracts.”
SpaceX had launched two astronauts in their vehicle, Crew Dragon to the International Space Station, becoming the first private company to do so. The astronauts successfully splashed back down to Earth a few days ago.