SpaceX Nabs $130 Million to Launch an Air Force Satellite With Falcon Heavy

DooKey

[H]F Junkie
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Apr 25, 2001
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SpaceX just received a $130M contract to launch an Air Force satellite with their Falcon Heavy rocket. If you think about this it's pretty amazing they got the contract when only one Falcon Heavy has been launched to date. Either SpaceX made an offer the Air Force couldn't refuse or the Falcon Heavy launch provided enough data to give the Air Force confidence in the rocket. Regardless, this is one more feather in the SpaceX cap and others have got their work cut out for themselves if they are going to beat out SpaceX.

“SpaceX is honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission,” said SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell. “On behalf of all of our employees, I want to thank the Air Force for certifying Falcon Heavy, awarding us this critically important mission, and for their trust and confidence in our company.
 

wgm3446

Gawd
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858
As long as their satellite gets into outer space, I don't think the Air Force doesn't care if the boosters land or crash.
 

travisty

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I wonder why the heavy is needed. Is it that the the payload is heavier or does it need to be in a higher orbit? Thinking the latter
 

sirmonkey1985

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - July 2010
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I wonder why the heavy is needed. Is it that the the payload is heavier or does it need to be in a higher orbit? Thinking the latter
heavier and higher orbit most likely.. either way this isn't launching until 2020 so there's already plenty of F9 heavy launches planned and paid for long before this one ever goes up. given their track record even if there was a problem between now and then the air force probably thinks they'll solve it before 2020.
 

aaronspink

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I wonder why the heavy is needed. Is it that the the payload is heavier or does it need to be in a higher orbit? Thinking the latter
Orbital inclinations. Most sats want basically east-west orientations to their orbits. Military sats tend to want N-S orbit orientations (aka high inclination orbits). higher inclination orbits generally require more delta-v (as you need to change the orbital plane). Also time to orbit can be critical for the military as well, which once again requires higher delta-v. Most commercial satellites for geosynchronous orbits are first places in a parking orbit and then utilize ion thrusters over a significant period of time to raise their orbits to geosynchronous. In addition, most military satellites tend to be on the heavier size as they generally carry larger quantities of maneuvering fuel into orbit that allows them to change their orbital mechanics when required and can give them a bit of unpredictability (a good thing in a spy sat).
 
D

Deleted member 93354

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I wonder why the heavy is needed. Is it that the the payload is heavier or does it need to be in a higher orbit? Thinking the latter
Depends. Geosync satellites are "high orbit" and usually are put there by a PAM (Payload Assistance Module) which is just a small rocket strapped to the bottom of the satellite. These are typically communication satellites, or GPS hardware (which are failing at an alarming rate) The airforce is charged with replacing these old GPS sats

Polar orbits also require more "boost" because they don't have the earth's equator velocity to help them out.

Spy satellites are low orbit for obvious reason, and don't sit stationary.
 
D

Deleted member 93354

Guest
Orbital inclinations. Most sats want basically east-west orientations to their orbits. Military sats tend to want N-S orbit orientations (aka high inclination orbits). higher inclination orbits generally require more delta-v (as you need to change the orbital plane). Also time to orbit can be critical for the military as well, which once again requires higher delta-v. Most commercial satellites for geosynchronous orbits are first places in a parking orbit and then utilize ion thrusters over a significant period of time to raise their orbits to geosynchronous. In addition, most military satellites tend to be on the heavier size as they generally carry larger quantities of maneuvering fuel into orbit that allows them to change their orbital mechanics when required and can give them a bit of unpredictability (a good thing in a spy sat).
Hello fellow astrospace geek. :D
 

katanaD

[H]ard|Gawd
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I wonder why the heavy is needed. Is it that the the payload is heavier or does it need to be in a higher orbit? Thinking the latter

what this really is is a test run for NASA for asteroid deflection work, and the reason for the Heavy is because Max and Bear havent gotten any skinnier

;>)
 

IcePickFreak

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As long as their satellite gets into outer space, I don't think the Air Force doesn't care if the boosters land or crash.
Your double negative is showing, ;) I'm sure they care when it comes to budget time, since the reusable boosters results in a lower bill for them.
 

Zarathustra[H]

I Complain about Everything
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As long as their satellite gets into outer space, I don't think the Air Force doesn't care if the boosters land or crash.
They care indirectly. If the boosters land and can be reused it allows SpaceX to bid lower for the contract. The Air Force is certainly concerned with launching cost effectively.

They may not care what happens after the launch is successful, until next launch when if it is successful, it allows for a lower cost bid.


I was curious so I googled AFSC-52, and came up with absolutely zilch other than discussions regarding contracts and bids for launching it. I wonder what it is? Reconnaissance/Surveillance? Military communication?

I understand the need for keeping things secret from any potential future adversaries, but I'm still curious :p
 

PaulP

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Oct 31, 2016
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In the launch business $130M is a very good deal for that size payload and launch profile. That's probably the big reason they won the contract.
 

Korrd

Limp Gawd
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Apr 19, 2005
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237
Hopefully this time it's not Northrop supplying the payload adapter. :whistle:
 

Crackinjahcs

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Good on SpaceX for securing this contract. I wonder if we'll have the hue and cry from engineers and Elon's fan base like with the Google AI .gov contracts.
 

Riouken

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Hopefully this time it's not Northrop supplying the payload adapter. :whistle:
LoL, it just goes to show the levels of buricratic incompetence. They refused to use spaceX's payload adapter because they didn't trust it. Then awarded that part of the launch to Northrop with an open check and they still fumbled.

But knowing our government I'm sure the conversation is going like this:

Northrop Exec-. "We spent triple what we said, and it still does not work, but look if you just give us this next contract we will have this sorted out..."

Government- "But SpaceX says they can do it twice as fast for half your original bid."

Northrop Exec- " But we can't fail, you need us if we fail then you won't have anyone to make your stuff."

Government-" Ok here is another blank check"
 
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