December 5, 2012
The Pentagon has awarded a $900 million space-launch contract to be split between Lockheed-Martin (NYSE: LMT ) , Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB ) , and privately held Space Exploration Technologies, the Department of Defense announced this week.
The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract revolves around the three companies providing systems support for the Air Force's Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP), which evaluates technology in ballistic missile operations and space launches, working with a number of defense contractors besides the aforementioned three to deliver rockets to space and suborbital altitudes.
Lockheed, Orbital, and SpaceX are expected to complete the contract by late November 2017. Orbital has done prior work for the Air Force in this area, using its Minotaur rockets to launch satellites since 2000. While Orbital will continue to use the Minotaur for this contract, SpaceX will use its tried-and-true Falcon 9 rocket, while Lockheed will utilize its Athena rocket for the DoD's launches.
Space programs at Orbital and SpaceX have also been in the news recently in contracting for NASA, with each company awarded more than $1 billion from the agency for future space launches. SpaceX's Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station earlier this year, and returned to Earth, and the DoD's award gives the privately held company, led by Telsa Motors' (Nasdaq: TSLA ) Elon Musk, its first foray into the defense industry.