Not long ago, SpaceX founder Elon Musk cracked what he once labeled a monopoly for Defense Department space launchings, successfully breaking into a business that was dominated by United Launch Alliance LLC.
The DOD’s appetite for space access is voracious, given the myriad reconnaissance, defense, and communications roles there, coupled with a future where conflicts are almost certain to involve room resources. Musk’s 2014 litigation against the government was resolved out of tribunal, and the Pentagon attested SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technology Corp ., as a suitable supplier of military space launches.
SpaceX’s first gig for the military forces was in May when it launched a spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office. But in a quite public feel, Musk and the government this summer will test the assumption that cheaper room launchings are suitable for sensitive military missions.
In August, SpaceX will carry one of the Pentagon’s premiere yet highly classified platforms into orbit. The X-3 7B snoop spacecraft, an unmanned miniature version of the Space Shuttle, logs missions that are well over a year in length. The most recent X-3 7B sojourn ended in May after more than 700 days circling the Earth. Boeing has built two of the craftsmanship, with the first put in place in 2010. The August blastoff will be the program’s fifth flight.
One major reason for SpaceX’s appeal to Pentagon brass: sticker price. With its launches starting around $61 million, Musk’s company has been able to undercut its more established rival. United Launch Alliance, a Centennial, Colo.-based joint enterprise of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp ., boasts an unblemished record of more than 100 launchings, but it’s still working to delivering its cost below $100 million. It plans to do so by 2019.
On Friday, ULA’s president and chief executive, Salvatore ” Tory ” Bruno, said here on Twitter that his corporation wanted to compete for the X-3 7B launching but wasn’t given a chance to do so.