NASA Awards SpaceX Contract for Weather Satellite Launch after ULA Withdraws

21st Sep 2021
NASA Awards SpaceX Contract for Weather Satellite Launch after ULA Withdraws

NASA issued an announcement on 10th Sept. stating that they have awarded the coveted geostationary weather satellite launch contract to SpaceX rather than to ULA. The SpaceX contract is valued at $152.5 million, with a launch deadline scheduled for April 2024.

Why did NASA approve the SpaceX contract?

NASA did not disclose a particular reason for awarding the SpaceX contract. The GOES-U satellite launch marks another victory for SpaceX. The company has a growing record of Falcon Heavy launches ahead of them, with the latest scheduled to deploy the Europa Clipper to the icy moon of Jupiter for 2024. NASA also awarded the Griffin lunar lander contract to SpaceX in August 2020, which will carry the VIPER rover as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Service program.

SpaceX has successfully launched Falcon Heavy three times, the last satellite launch being part of the Space Test Program 2 mission in June 2019. The next Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled to launch in October.

Why did ULA withdraw their bid for the NASA satellite launch?

A spokesperson for ULA issued a statement regarding the satellite launch contract withdrawal, stating that the company did not possess any Atlas 5 vehicles. According to sources, the remaining 29 rockets have already been sold to other companies. Chief executive of ULA, Tory Bruno, has come publicly with the information that the company will no longer be offering the Atlas 5. The company will complete its standing contracts, such as an order for five rockets placed by Amazon as part of the Project Kuiper, a constellation of satellites for broadband Internet.

ULA is planning to transition to the Vulcan Centaur rocket. The inaugural launch is scheduled for 2022. The Vulcan will allow the company to facilitate a new batch of satellite launch contracts, while the latest NASA award still goes to the SpaceX contract.

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