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SpaceX Awarded Company's First-Ever EELV Contract By U.S. Air Force

SpaceX has been awarded an EELV contract by the U.S. Air Force, a first for the company. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / awaltersphoto.com

HAWTHORNE, Calif., — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has been awarded the contract to launch two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions by the United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) and STP-2 (Space Test Program 2) will fly atop a Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicle in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

This marks the first time that the NewSpace firm has been awarded an EELV contract, as the company has strived to lower the cost of launching to orbit by developing systems that were proposed to contain reusable elements.

“SpaceX deeply appreciates and is honored by the vote of confidence shown by the Air Force in our Falcon launch vehicles,” said Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer, SpaceX. “We look forward to providing high reliability access to space with lift capability to orbit that is substantially greater than any other launch vehicle in the world.”

A comparison of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. Image Credit: SpaceX

Both missions are currently planned to launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) located on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. With DSCOVR slated for a late 2014 launch and STP-2 scheduled to launch in mid-2015.

The fact that SpaceX has successfully launched four of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets without a single accident (statistically 75 percent of all launch vehicles fail within their first three launches) is one of the reasons why the firm has garnered so much attention—and been awarded so many contracts. Photo Credit: Jeffrey J. Soulliere

These two missions fall under the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3), an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the Air Force’s Rocket Systems Launch Program.

This program allows new companies an opportunity to show off the capabilities of their launch vehicles.

The DSCOVR mission will serve to further demonstrate the Falcon 9’s capabilities (the launch vehicle has already flown four times under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services and Commercial Resupply Services contracts).

STP-2 on the other hand will test the, as yet, untested characteristics of the Falcon Heavy (this rocket has not yet flown). SpaceX plans to conduct the first test flight of the Falcon Heavy in late 2013.

SpaceX has become the company to watch in the commercial space flight arena. The firm’s Falcon 9 rockets have launched successfully on each of its four flights. Three of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft have thundered into orbit atop the Falcon 9 with two of those traveling to the International Space Station and delivering cargo to the orbiting laboratory.

2 comments to SpaceX Awarded Company’s First-Ever EELV Contract By U.S. Air Force

  • Joe

    Jason,

    A couple of questions:
    - Is the Falcon 9 to be the current version or the Falcon 9 v1.1 (using Merlin 1d vs. Merlin 1c engines)?

    - The Falcon 9 v1.1also changes the engine arrangement from rectangular to octagonal. The Falcon Heavy is supposed to be a “three barrel” version of the Falcon 9. The illustration for the article appears to show it using the rectangular configuration. Is that the case?

    - Is the current investigation into the anomalies on the CRS-1 flight likely to affect the projected schedule?

    Thanks.

  • Joe,

    I don’t believe the configuration will be the same as the one that the company currently employs.

    The image is what SpaceX has on its website. The company, while improving, still isn’t the most communicative. So I cannot answer this question fully.

    Yes, there are most certainly reviews of the assorted flight anomalies which took place on CRS-1.

    Sincerely and with regards, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace