SpaceX has been chosen to launch two large government payloads, breaking a virtual monopoly held by United Launch Alliance (ULA).
The US Air Force selected SpaceX over ULA and competitor Orbital Sciences to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in 2014 and the Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) in 2015. The award marks the first payload capable of flying on one of ULA's two rockets, the Boeing-built Delta IV and Lockheed Martin's Atlas V.
"SpaceX deeply appreciates, and is honoured by, the vote of confidence shown by the air force in our Falcon launch vehicles," says SpaceX president Elon Musk. Musk has strived to compete in the lucrative US government launch market, long dominated by ULA. The company was only judged eligible to bid for launches in 2011.
DCSOVR will be launched using a Falcon 9, while STP-2 requires a Falcon 9 Heavy. Both will be launched from Cape Canaveral, says SpaceX.