U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX & ULA $727 Million in Launch Contracts

Falcon 9 lifts off on Spaceflight SSO-A mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The U.S. Air Force has split contracts between SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) for a series of upcoming satellite launches.

SpaceX will receive $297 million for the launches of NROL-87, NROL-85, and AFSPC-44 satellites.  ULA will receive $441,761,778 for the launches of the SILENTBARKER, SBIRS GEO-5, and SBIRS GEO-6 satellites.

This is the sixth competition under the current Phase 1A procurement strategy. The launch schedule is:

  • NROL-85 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range;
  • NROL-87 will launch in FY2021 from the Western Range;
  • SILENTBARKER will launch in FY2022 from the Eastern Range;
  • SBIRS GEO-5 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range;
  • SBIRS GEO-6 is an option on the ULA contract with a possible launch in FY2022 from the Eastern Range; and,
  • AFSPC-44 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range.

The Silent Barker, NROL-85 and NROL-87 satellites are missions for the National Reconnaissance Office. AFSP-44, SBIRS GEO-5 and SBIRS GEO-6 spacecraft will be launched for the U.S. Air Force.

The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), awarded the contracts under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. In a press release, SMC said the awards struck a balance between maintaining operational readiness and introducing competition into national security launches.

“The competitive award of these EELV launch service contracts directly supports SMC’s mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, SMC Commander, and Program Executive Officer for Space. “Phase 1A continues to enable the space enterprise to respond to the rapidly evolving operating environment.”