SpaceX Wins Contract for U.S. Air Force Launch

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its demonstration flight. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

LOS ANGELES (SpaceX PR) — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a $130,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite to its intended orbit.

This launch service contract will include launch vehicle production and mission, as well as integration, launch operations and spaceflight worthiness activities. Work will be performed in Hawthorne, California; Kennedy Space Center, Florida; and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be completed by September 2020.

This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, and two proposals were received. Fiscal 2018 space procurement funds in the amount of $130,000,000 will be obligated at the time of award. The Contracting Division, Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity (FA8811-18-C-0003). (Awarded June 20, 2018)

  • envy

    There is no credible reason to believe that SpaceX is taking a loss on this bid. The boosters will almost certainly be recovered.

  • envy

    AV551 certainly does have the performance to lift the reference mass to the reference orbit. Delta IV Medium 5,2+ does as well, but AFAIK those are not being bid anymore.

    FH most likely beat out Atlas for this mission, which is even more significant than it beating out DIVH.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Of course the boosters will be recovered, Falcon H seems to be really made to allow reuse for the upper end of launches for the F9 that demanded throw away boosters for heavy GEO flights. We’ve seen far more of those flights than anything that would demand the upper end of FH’s high mass throw away upmasses. However, if the bid really was for $130 million, that says a lot about the real price of a F9 blk 5, fuel, and launch crew, assuming as you do that SX is not taking even a slight loss on this flight.

  • envy

    I think it says more about the opportunity cost of throwing away a brand new block 5 booster, essentially sacrificing 10 or 100 more launches. The value of an asset is not how much it costs, but how much revenue and profit it can generate over its life. For an expended rocket, that life is one launch. For a recovered Block 5, that life could be many, many launches.

    SpaceX could probably expend Block 5 boosters all day at $90M each and turn a nice profit. But why would they want to do that when they can recover then and make even more money?

  • envy

    Selecting a vehicle before its first fully successful flight is not new for the USAF or the NSS community. The first Delta IV Heavy failed, but its next flight carried a NRO satellite. The very first Delta IV Medium launch (a 4,2 M+ with 2 solids) lifted a commercial commsat only 3 months before the USAF launched a military commsat on the first flight of a new variant (the standard M with no solids).

    FH has had a fully successful flight, and will have several more before this payload flies.

  • Michael Halpern

    Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if BFR uses subcooled propellants, but yeah in terms of rocket complexity, BFR is a simple beast.

  • envy

    Subcooled methalox isn’t a deep cryogen, it’s at least 3x warmer than boiling LH2. It won’t freeze out air, and only requires minimal insulation to avoid condensing air, and doesn’t have most of the other headaches of working with LH2.

  • Michael Halpern

    Ahh yeah LH2 is more trouble than it’s worth