The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) recently signed a contract modification to reuse a Falcon 9 first-stage booster — for the first time on a National Security Space Launch mission — starting with the fifth Global Positioning System-III satellite, scheduled to launch next year.
While SMC’s Launch Enterprise and SpaceX previously signed contract modifications enabling SpaceX to recover boosters for GPS III missions, this landmark “reuse” contract modification is the first of its kind for NSSL missions.
“The United States’ launch industry is the envy of the world,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. “Industry’s innovation has been key to SMC’s success over our 60+ year existence. I am thrilled to welcome SpaceX’s innovative reuse into the National Security Space Launch program!”
“SMC’s commitment to innovative partnerships and working with the commercial sector while maintaining our mission assurance posture and mission-success record cannot be understated,” said Dr. Walt Lauderdale, SMC’s Falcon Systems and Operations Division chief and frequent mission director. “I am proud of our partnership with SpaceX that allowed us to successfully negotiate contract modifications for the upcoming GPS III missions that will save taxpayers $52.7 million while maintaining our unprecedented record of success.”
“SpaceX is proud to leverage Falcon 9’s flight-proven benefits and capabilities for national security space launch missions,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. “We appreciate the effort that the U.S. Space Force invested into the evaluation and are pleased that they see the benefits of the technology. Our extensive experience with reuse has allowed SpaceX to continually upgrade the fleet and save significant precious tax dollars on these launches.”
SpaceX and SMC successfully launched and recovered the GPS III-SV03 booster on June 30, 2020, providing valuable data and insight on reusing the Falcon 9 launch vehicle for future NSSL missions. The booster from the upcoming GPS III-SV04 launch scheduled for Sept. 29 will also be recovered. With this latest contract modification, SMC’s Launch Enterprise agreed to reuse Falcon boosters for GPS III-SV05 and GPS III-SV06, both of which can also be recovered.
The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, a defense meteorological satellite control network, range systems, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.