SpaceX Can Now Launch National-Security Satellites With Used Rockets

SpaceX Can Now Launch National-Security Satellites With Used Rockets

U.S. Space Force has announced that it will launch two GPS satellites on a used Falcon-9 rocket next year. It is the first such decision from the Space Force.

Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, just signed a contract modification with the U.S. Space Force. This grants permission to use Falcon 9 Boosters with preflown first stages for the upcoming GPS satellite launches. This will result in savings of nearly $53 million, according to officials from Space Force.

“SpaceX is proud to leverage Falcon 9’s flight-proven benefits and capabilities for national security space launch missions,” SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement emailed out by the Space Force.

“We appreciate the effort that the U.S. Space Force invested into the evaluation and are pleased that they see the benefits of the technology,” Shotwell said.

This announcement is a step forward in the Space Force’s growing acceptance of reusable-rocket technology.

SpaceX previously collaborated with the military branch’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and signed contract modifications allowing to land Falcon 9 first stages during GPS launches.

As a part of SMCs’ modification contract, SpaceX recovered a booster from GPS III-SV03 mission this past June. It plans to do so again for GPS III-SV04, which is scheduled on September 29th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

“SMC’s commitment to innovative partnerships and working with the commercial sector while maintaining our mission assurance posture and mission-success record cannot be understated,” Walt Lauderdale, head of SMC’s Falcon Systems and Operations Division and frequent mission director, said in the same statement. 

The new contract modifications with Space Force allows SpaceX to launch GPS III-SV05 and GPS III-SV06 satellites atop Falcon 9s with preflown first stages, which will land back on Earth after their work in the upward direction is done.

“The United States’ launch industry is the envy of the world,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. “Industry’s innovation has been key to SMC’s success over our 60+ year existence. I am thrilled to welcome SpaceX’s innovative reuse into the National Security Space Launch program!”

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