SpaceX defeats Boeing-Lockheed partnership for GPS launch contract

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (in center, in a horizontal position), is readied for launch on a supply mission to the International Space Station on historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies has won a GPS satellite launch contract over rival United Launch Alliance, a partnership of the top two U.S. aerospace companies Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., the U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday.

The contract, worth $96.5 million, is the second GPS satellite launch contract awarded by the Air Force to Musk’s rocket company, known as SpaceX. United Launch Alliance, however, did not bid for the first GPS launch contract, which was awarded in April 2016. At the time, the Air Force said SpaceX’s $83 million bid was about 40 percent less than what the military had been paying United Launch Alliance for previously awarded contracts.

The GPS launch contracts won by SpaceX cover production of a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, mission integration, launch operations and spaceflight certification, the Air Force said in a statement. The launch, slated for February 2019, is intended to put the third member of the next-generation GPS satellite network into orbit. SpaceX won certification from the Air Force in 2015 to compete for military and national security space launches, breaking United Launch Alliance’s 10-year monopoly.