Aerospace company Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX as it is better known, launched a Falcon9 rocket carrying the company’s first-ever spy satellite for the United States military from Florida on Monday. This broke a 10-year monopoly held by Lockheed Martin and Boeing over American military contracts, Reuters reported.
The 23-storey-tall rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center at 7.15 am (local time). It will put into orbit a classified satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office, an agency within the Defense Department that operates the nation’s spy satellites.
Nine minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s main section touched down on a landing pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The National Reconnaissance Office bought SpaceX’s launch services via a contract with Ball Aerospace, a Colorado-based satellite and instrument builder. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
The company’s founder, Elon Musk, has fought for years to dislodge United Launch Alliance, Lockheed Martin-Boeing partnership, from the military’s launch business. He even sued the US Air Force in 2014 over its exclusive multi-billion-dollar contract with the partnership. SpaceX later dropped the suit after the military agreed to open more launch contracts to competitive bidding.
SpaceX had launched a Falcon 9 vessel with 10 communication satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January this year. This was its seventh successful rocket launch for a private exploration firm.