22:04 GMT +312 December 2018
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    This artist’s concept shows Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as it will appear for the launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is modifying the launch pad to host Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles

    Falcon Heavys Rise: SpaceX’s New Rocket Scores Big Satellite Launch Contract

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    Elon Musk’s SpaceX just won a major $130 million contract to launch a US Air Force satellite into orbit, the military branch announced Friday.

    The contract, which is the fifth awarded under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, will put an Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-52 satellite into orbit in fiscal year 2020, Los Angeles Air Force Base announced Thursday.

    Further details about the satellite remain classified.

    The Falcon Heavy rocket that will carry the payload will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the first such contract SpaceX has received using the Falcon Heavy, which made its maiden flight in February 2018.

    "On behalf of all of our employees, I want to thank the Air Force for certifying Falcon Heavy, awarding us this critically important mission, and for their trust and confidence in our company," said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell in a statement. "SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions."

    SpaceX beat out competitors United Launch Alliance, a joint competitor formed by defense giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, with an offer to do the same work for tens of millions fewer dollars, Fortune reported. The company first smashed ULA's monopoly of the field in 2016.

    SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. Its Falcon Heavy rocket is a modification of the company's earlier Falcon 9 partially reusable rocket. While the Falcon 9 can lift around 25 tons into low Earth orbit, the Heavy can boost a hefty 70 tons into space. While it was hoped the Falcon Heavy would be ready "in a couple of years" in 2009, its maiden flight was continually delayed by testing problems and the catastrophic failure of other rockets using the same or similar parts as the Falcon Heavy, only flying for the first time in early 2018.

     

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    Tags:
    Falcon heavy, US Air Force, launch, satellite, contract, SpaceX, Elon Musk
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