SpaceX and ULA renew deals as military’s top launch partners

Video: SpaceX launches Starlink satellites

ORLANDO, Fla. — Editor’s note: This story is available as a result of a content partnership between WFTV and the Orlando Business Journal.

SpaceX and United Launch Alliance rocketed past competitors to land contracts that make them the U.S. Department of Defense’s go-to launch partners. 

That means more future launches from Cape Canaveral by the two companies, which will receive $650 million combined from the U.S. Space Force to carry satellites and more into space. 

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Frequent flyers

The U.S. Space Force contracts, announced on Aug. 7, are for the second phase of the National Security Space Launch program. The Pentagon will order launch missions from the two firms between fiscal years 2022 and 2027. Here’s a closer look: 

  • Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, landed a $316 million contract to handle 40% of missions. Work will take place at Cape Canaveral; Hawthorne, California; and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SpaceX executives could not be reached for comment. 
  • Centennial, Colorado-based ULA, a joint venture between The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., won a $337 million deal for the remaining 60% of launches. Missions will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral. The award showcases the confidence the military has in the company and its long history of sending government missions into space, CEO Tony Bruno said in prepared statement. The firm has launched more than 140 missions since 2006. 

The two companies were frequent launch providers for the U.S military before the awards, but there was still heavy competition for the contracts. Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin LLC and Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp. both placed bids as well. 

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a prepared statement that he was “disappointed” in the Space Force’s decision, and his firm will continue to develop its New Glenn rocket — which has a devoted manufacturing facility in Merritt Island — for commercial use.