SpaceX signs deal to launch military rockets around the world

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Rendering of a SpaceX Starship in flight.

SpaceX

The US Air Force is seeking Elon Musk’s help to develop a way to deliver military supplies and humanitarian aid via SpaceX rockets.

The company signed a contract with the US Department of Defense worth more than $102 million to provide point-to-point transit for cargo through space.

The contract, awarded on Friday, is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s rocket cargo program, which aims to take advantage of the falling price of heavy launch capabilities that SpaceX and other companies have put on the table. on the market in recent years.

Program manager Greg Spanjers told SpaceNews earlier this week that the military is “very interested in the ability to deliver cargo anywhere on Earth to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. “.

The contract does not specify which SpaceX rocket or vehicle the initiative will use. SpaceX has used its Falcon 9 rocket and Falcon Heavy (which is made up of three Falcon 9 boosters) for military missions in the past, but Musk has made it clear that he considers Starship as a vehicle of the future.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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NASA has contracted with SpaceX to use Starship for upcoming lunar missions and Musk hopes to use the next-generation spacecraft to continue developing the Starlink Broadband Satellite Constellation. The billionaire founder also suggested that Starship could be used for point-to-point commercial passenger flights around the world, much like what the Air Force contract seeks, but with humans instead of cargo.

This vision of international flights via space relies on a network of spaceports around the world to launch and land. But Spanjers told SpaceNews the Air Force is looking to explore ways to land at “more austere sites” in potentially disaster areas.

It’s unclear when we might see a first demonstration flight under the program. Spanjers added that other launch vendors could be awarded similar contracts down the line.

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