SpaceX Close to Winning its First-Ever Military Mission

By Kaila Hale-Stern on at

It looks like SpaceX is set to win its first US military contract. Elon Musk’s company sued for the right to be considered, and now it is the last one standing after United Launch Alliance’s Russian-made engines have become an issue.

The contract at hand is a next-gen GPS satellite for the US Air Force. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has dominated the military satellite scene since 2006, but this year is different: new laws passed by Congress in response to the ongoing tensions between the United States and Russia will ban the use of the Russian-made RD-180 engine, which ULA’s rockets rely on.

Ars Technica reports:

ULA’s chief executive, Tory Bruno, told the Washington Post that his company was “unable to submit a compliant proposal” because of contract requirements and the limitations Congress has imposed on the RD-180 engine.

The company’s decision appears to bring some closure to the public and legal battle SpaceX launched in April, 2014, to buttress its efforts to get into the national defense satellite launch market. At the time, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk accused the US government of entering into improper and uncompeted launch agreements with private contractors and said that SpaceX’s rockets could do the same job at a far lower cost. “We’re just protesting and saying these launches should be competed,” said Musk at a press conference. “And if we compete and lose, that’s fine, but why were they not even competed?”

With ULA bowing out, SpaceX is poised to step up on the military space stage. The contract will be a big win for Musk and his rising firm; military contracts are hugely lucrative, not to mention that this marks the successful end to a long fight to be considered a contender. [Ars Technica]

Top image via SpaceX.

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