Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, has won its first U.S. Air Force contract to launch military satellites.
The Hawthorne, California-based company on Wednesday received a nearly $83 million agreement from the service to deliver a GPS III satellite into orbit using a Falcon 9 rocket, according to the contract announcement. SpaceX beat out another unnamed competitor for the work.
“This launch service contract will include launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations,” the announcement states.
The work will be overseen by Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base and is expected to be completed by July 31, 2018.
SpaceX is seeking to develop reusable rockets to lower launch costs.
It made headlines earlier this month when it successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a barge at sea. The company is also developing manned spacecraft for NASA. Indeed, the same day the Air Force contract was announced, the firm unveiled plans to send its Dragon spacecraft on a mission to Mars by 2018.
SpaceX is competing against United Launch Alliance LLC, a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. joint venture that for years has dominated the U.S. military market.
The Centennial, Colorado-based firm last week announced plans to layoff as many as 875 employees amid increasing competition in the market and restrictions on using Russian-made engines on its Atlas rockets.
Note: This story was updated to correct the reference to the estimated work completion date in the fourth paragraph.