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SpaceX Wins First Competed National Security Award with GPS 3 Launch

By | April 28, 2016
      SpaceX Falcon 9 Eutelsat ABS

      SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket used to launch the ABS 3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites in March 2015. Photo: SpaceX

      [Via Satellite 04-28-2016] The U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX an $82.7 million firm-fixed price, standalone contract to launch a GPS 3 satellite, marking the first competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch services contract in more than a decade. SpaceX will provide the government with a total launch solution, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations and spaceflight certification. The mission will be the second GPS 3 launch and is scheduled to liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. in May 2018.

      SpaceX underwent a protracted certification process for the Falcon 9 rocket in order to compete with United Launch Alliance (ULA), which until May 2015 was the only certified provider for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) services. The Air Force has also updated the certification for the baseline configuration of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch system to Falcon 9 Upgrade.

      This is the first of nine competitive launch services planned in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 President’s Budget Request under the current Phase 1A procurement strategy, which covers awards with FY 2015 to 2018 funding. The next solicitation for launch services will be for a second GPS 3 satellite.

      ULA won a sole-source contract for 36 rocket cores in 2013. Prior to the recent GPS 3 award to SpaceX, ULA said it would not compete for the mission due to congressional restraints on its supply of the Russian-produced RD-180 engine used to power the Atlas 5 rocket. ULA is currently developing a new rocket named Vulcan that replaces the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 and is not reliant on Russian engines.