SpaceX loses Air Force launch to United Launch Alliance

SpaceX Falcon 9 satellite launch FBN

United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co , for the first time beat Elon Musk's SpaceX in competition for an Air Force satellite launch, both launch companies said on Friday.

The contact covers launch services for multiple satellites aboard an Atlas 5 rocket in June 2019. The contract value is $191,141,581, the Air Force said.

United Launch Alliance, which previously had a monopoly on launches, has not won a competition with SpaceX since the company won a contract for an Air Force launch business with a contract award in 2016.

A SpaceX official told Reuters it did not expect to win this bidding competition because the mission required a heavy-lift launcher and its Falcon Heavy booster has not yet flown.

“The mission performance required that we bid Falcon Heavy,” SpaceX spokesman John Taylor wrote in a email to Reuters.

“We did submit a bid, but with the knowledge that our first Falcon Heavy flight might occur after the time of the award. Given we have not flown Falcon Heavy, we did not anticipate winning this mission,” he said.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is expected to debut this year.