December 6, 2012
United States Air Force Awards Two Launch Contracts To SpaceX
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The company will be using its Falcon launch vehicles to send DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) and STP-2 (Space Test Program 2) into orbit in 2014 and 2015.
"SpaceX deeply appreciates and is honored by the vote of confidence shown by the Air Force in our Falcon launch vehicles," Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer, SpaceX, said in a prepared statement. "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."
The DSCOVR mission will launch aboard Falcon 9 in 2014, while STP-2 will be taking a ride aboard Falcon Heavy in mid-2015. Both of the launches will be taking place from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
DSCOVR is designed to measure the Earth's albedo by tracking sunlight reflected back from the Earth from a distant vantage point.
The missions fall under Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3), which is an indefinite-delivery contract for the U.S. Air Force Rocket Systems Launch Program. OSP-3 represents the first Air Force contract designed to provide new entrants to the EELV program an opportunity to demonstrate their vehicle capabilities.
SpaceX said that its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket in the world, will be taking its first flight in the second half of 2013.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski announced the decision to award SpaceX the contracts this week at the AIAA Space 2012 Conference.
If the launches go successfully, SpaceX will be allowed to bid for 14 of the 50 projected Air Force launches for the rest of the decade. The first of these launches would begin no earlier than 2017.