Air Force awards $738 million in launch contracts to ULA, SpaceX

February 19, 2019 at 5:35 PM

The Air Force awarded more than $738 million in launch services contracts on Tuesday to the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX for upcoming Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office missions.

The ULA award totaled $441.7 million and includes launch services for the final two Space-Based Infrared System satellites, SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6, and for a largely classified space situational awareness program, Silentbarker.

A Feb. 19 contract announcement notes that the Silentbarker launch is expected to occur by March 2022 and the SBIRS GEO-5 by March 2021. The contract includes an option for the GEO-6 launch.

SpaceX was awarded a $297 million contract to launch two NRO missions -- NROL-87 and NROL-85 -- as well as the Air Force Space Command 44 mission. The intelligence missions are slated to be launched by December 2021 and AFSPC-44 is expected to launch by February 2021.

The awards come as the Defense Department inspector general is conducting an audit of the Air Force's process for certifying SpaceX as a new entrant launch provider. The IG office announced Feb. 11 it would review "whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the launch services new entrant certification guide" when it approved the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to fly national security space missions.