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SpaceX to build US Military Satellite Constellation

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SpaceX has been awarded a contract worth $149 million by the US Space Development Agency. The aerospace company will build custom satellites for the Department of Defense (DoD). 

This will be SpaceX’s first government contract to build a satellite constellation. Another contract, worth $193 million, was awarded to American technology company, L3 Harris Technologies Inc.. According to SDA Director Derek Tournear, both companies are required to deliver their satellites by September 2022. 

What are the Stipulations of the Military Contract?

SDA announced that SpaceX was awarded a $149,175,246 firm-fixed contract to build four missile-tracking satellites. Firm-fixed contracts place upon the contractor full responsibility for all costs and resulting profits or losses. The satellites will be fitted with a wide-angle infrared missile-tracking sensor supplied by a subcontractor. These sensors are also referred to as “wide field of view” overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Tournear has not disclosed the identity of the subcontractor, which will basically serve as the payload provider. 

Generally speaking, the SDA obtains satellites that will be able to detect and track missiles like the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). These types of missiles have a minimum range of 5,500 kilometers (approximately 3,418 miles). In other words, they can cover vast distances, and are difficult to track and intercept. 

The contract handed to SpaceX will form part of the SDA’s first phase of the Tracking Layer project, called “Tranche 0”. 

SpaceX’s latest Military Contract: Market Dominance Personified

The company’s latest government contract comes as no surprise for most military experts and job candidates. SpaceX spent the better part of six months publishing several job openings for satellite design, development, test and integration. Additionally, those openings have a top secret security clearance attached to them.  

The company is also leveraging its Starlink satellite design, rocket reusability and production capabilities, to parlay their way into securing new deals with several branches of the US military.

Last August, the company was awarded a lucrative contract by the U.S. Department of Defense. From 2022 through 2027, SpaceX will launch 40% of total missions of the United States Space Force (USSF).

SpaceX was also awarded a contract in 2018 by the US Airforce to deploy GPS III SV-04 satellites up until July 2021. The aerospace company is thus further asserting itself as the dominating private aerospace company in the world. 

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