SpaceX Wins Its Second GPS 3 Launch Contract

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch with Thaicom 8
The SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off May 27, 2016 carrying the Thaicom 8 telecommunications satellite to geostationary-transfer orbit. The rocket's first stage was successfully returned to an offshore drone ship. (Image credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON — SpaceX beat United Launch Alliance to win a $96.5 million contract to launch a GPS 3 navigation satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in early 2019, the U.S. Air Force announced March 14.

"SpaceX is proud to have been selected to support this important National Security Space Mission," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and COO, said in a statement. "We appreciate the confidence that the U.S. Air Force has placed in our company and we look forward to working together towards the successful launch of another GPS-III mission."

The award is SpaceX's second Air Force launch contract for a GPS 3 satellite but the first for which it faced a competing bid. ULA confirmed last September, when bids were due, that it sent in a proposal.

ULA ultimately decided not to bid on a launch contract the Air Force awarded to SpaceX last April for a 2018 launch of the service's second GPS 3 satellite. ULA said that it couldn't win in a straight price shootout and couldn't be sure it would have a rocket available due to congressional restrictions then in place for the Atlas 5's Russian-made RD-180 engine. That contract went to SpaceX for $82.7 million, about half of what ULA normally charges for an Atlas 5 launch.

In a statement sent to reporters, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, leader of the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, said "the competitive award of the GPS 3 Launch Services contract to SpaceX directly supports SMC's mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation."

The first GPS 3 satellite is currently scheduled for an early 2018 launch aboard a ULA Delta 4 rocket.

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Editor-in-Chief, SpaceNews

Brian Berger is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews, a bi-weekly space industry news magazine, and He joined SpaceNews covering NASA in 1998 and was named Senior Staff Writer in 2004 before becoming Deputy Editor in 2008. Brian's reporting on NASA's 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident and received the Communications Award from the National Space Club Huntsville Chapter in 2019. Brian received a bachelor's degree in magazine production and editing from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.