SpaceX Announces First Commercial Contract For Launch In 2013

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on Tuesday announced its first commercial contract for its Falcon Heavy rocket, due for its inaugural launch sometime next year.

The contract is with Intelsat, the world´s leading provider of satellite services. The value of the contract was not specified, but SpaceX has said it offers Falcon Heavy launches for $80 million – $125 million.

“SpaceX is very proud to have the confidence of Intelsat,” said Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX. “The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world. With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers.”

While details of the contract have not been revealed, SpaceX will apparently be launching at least one satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) after it makes a series of test launches. Intelsat said it will work closely with SpaceX in the lead up to the launch to ensure the rocket meets its standards.

“Timely access to space is an essential element of our commercial supply chain,” said Thierry Guillemin, CTO at Intelsat. “As a global leader in the satellite sector, our support of successful new entrants to the commercial launch industry reduces risk in our business model. Intelsat has exacting technical standards and requirements for proven flight heritage for our satellite launches.”

The launch pad for the Falcon Heavy is still under construction at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The first version of the rocket is expected to arrive there sometime this year with its first test launch in 2013.

Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket since Saturn V, according to SpaceX. It will blast off with 3.8 million pounds of thrust from 27 first-stage engines.

SpaceX is currently in the midst of an International Space Station mission, as its Dragon cargo capsule successfully docked with the orbiting lab, delivering much needed supplies. The vessel was launched on May 22, and is expected to return to Earth on Thursday.