June 22 (UPI) — Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, will send a satellite into orbit atop its Falcon Heavy rocket in 2020, the U.S. Air Force announced on Thursday.
The massive rocket will deliver a secretive military satellite, known as AFSPC-52, into space, in a $130 million fixed-price contract.
Two proposals for the launch were offered to the Air Force, from SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The two competitors for the contract are the only companies eligible to launch certain military satellites into space for purposes of national security.
The contract announced by the Department of Defense on Thursday is the first awarded to SpaceX.
The Falcon Heavy is a partially reusable rocket designed for heavy-lift launches. It is based on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 vehicle with a reinforced Falcon 9 first stage and two attached boosters. In its initial launch in February it gained attention by launching a cherry red Tesla convertible into earth orbit.
“SpaceX is honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell told CNN in a statement. “SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions.”