SpaceX is all set to mark the beginning of a new era for the company later this month by launching a government spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The forthcoming launch holds much significance for the simple reason that this will be the first ever time when the U.S. Department of Defence will be using SpaceX for one of its missions.
For the past six years or so, this arena was almost exclusively dominated by SpaceX competitor, the United Launch Alliance. The NRO announced in May 2016 that the contract for this launch has been awarded to the Elon Musk-owned company. Up until now, SpaceX had primarily focused on cargo missions for the International Space Station (ISS) and telecommunication satellites.
If everything goes as per plan, the NRO satellite will be launched on April 30, 2017, using a Falcon 9 rocket.
This also pave the way for a more intense competition between SpaceX and ULA, both being two of the main launch providers from the Space Coast. Needless to say, a growing competition between the two companies will bring more business for Florida.
“This satellite was going to launch from Florida anyway,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances, reports Phys.org.
“But it reflects more competition. That will drive down prices and could result in it being cheaper to get into space, meaning more launches. Competition is a good thing.”
Worth noting, bagging the government contract was not that easy a deal for Musk and his team. In fact, at one point SpecsX even considered suing the US Air Force for allegedly rewarding the contract to United Launch Alliance in personal interest.
“Essentially we’re asking them to award a contract to a company where they are probably not going to get a job, against a company where their friends are,” Musk said in a statement to Bloomberg Business Week back in 2015.