California based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) looks set to win its first U.S. military satellite launch contract after the only other serious bidder, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, pulled out of the race.
A person with inside knowledge of the bid process who does not want to identified, says United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed operator, has informed the U.S. Air Force the terms of the contest kept it from making a qualifying bid before yesterday's deadline.
ULA spokesperson Jessica Rye says, “We look forward to working with the Air Force to address the obstacles to ULA’s participation in future launch competitions to enable a full and fair competition."
The bid war between SpaceX and ULA to launch a global positioning satellite for the Air Force first gained real momentum in May when SpaceX won U.S. Air Force certification for national-security missions. Until then, ULA was the sole supplier of sensitive satellite launches, a market that will bring business worth $70 billion through to 2030.
ULA officials in the past indicated they may not bid on the competition unless the Defense Department waives restrictions on the imports of the Russian-made rocket engines it uses to launch vehicles.
Over recent years the Pentagon has encouraged competition between launch providers in an effort to drive down costs and also to have a crucial backup in case one vehicle is grounded.
Earlier this year, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee in March that its prices for military launches would be less than $100 million, compared to ULA’s $160 million plus.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) which has its headquarters in Hawthorne, California was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. His stated goal for SpaceX is to create the technologies to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars.