SpaceX, Elon Musk's commercial space company, has just bagged a coveted contract amounting to $83 million that requires sending a U.S. Air Force satellite into space. This contract effectively breaks the stronghold that Boeing and Lockheed have in military launches for many years.
Elon Musk can now look forward to a very lucrative revenue stream opened up by this contract to launch the U.S. Air Force's next generation GPS satellite.
The project is attractive to the U.S military complex since SpaceX allows the re-use of its first stage rockets to keep costs down. In addition, this deal will prove that the U.S. military have additional options in launching sensitive space missions.
Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Air Force Executive Officer for Space said that giving the contract to SpaceX "achieves a balance between mission success, meeting operational needs, lowering launch costs, and reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions."
This new development came just right after Musk announced that he is planning to send man to Mars by 2025.
In preparation for this event, his commercial space exploration company is planning to put an unmanned spacecraft on the Red Planet "as soon as 2018."
Musk tweeted that he plans to make good on a mission that was proposed last year. And that is to send a modified version of Red Dragon, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. Its purpose is to survey the terrain on Mars and possibly collect some soil samples.
Musk's contract with the U.S. Air Force is not without competitors. He is competing with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed. These two companies have been monopolizing U.S. military launches for so long. However, ULA opted to drop out of the bidding process last year.
Musk's competitors chose not to pursue their bids due to the deteriorating relations of the United States with Russia that led Congress to limit the use of Russian made rocket engines for military launches.