Air Force: SpaceX launch award was ultimately decided by cost

That's because SpaceX did not plan for a landing of the first stage booster. Elon Musk's SpaceX spoiled that party past year when it won its first US Air Force contract, but the ULA didn't bid on that contract.

SpaceX launched one of its Falcon rockets into space at 2:00 am EDT on Thursday morning, after a delay earlier in the week due to high winds. Thirty four minutes after launch, the EchoStar 23 satellite was released to fly on its own.

Take note that this particular SpaceX mission will not attempt to retain the first stage booster because of the need for the EchoStar 23 spacecraft to be lifted high in the altitude orbit. The pad was used to send Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969.

"SpaceX is proud to have been selected to support this important National Security Space Mission", said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. The main objective of this satellite is to provide broadcast services to the country of Brazil as EchoStar is a global provider of video delivery and satellite solutions. Built by Space Systems Loral, the satellite is created to operate for at least 15 years. Corrective actions were implemented and SpaceX returned to flight January 14, successfully launching 10 Iridium NEXT satellite telephone relay stations from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Featured on the SpaceFlightNow is the detailed schedule of the Falcon 9 delivering the EchoStar23 satellite. The reiteration of Falcon 9 will possibly be the final upgrade for the rocket.

SpaceX has flights scheduled for every two to three weeks as the company tries to manage a backlog of more than 70 delayed mission of NASA as well as commercial customers.

The company's next mission, possibly in late March or early April, will be among its most closely watched. There will not be an attempted landing of the Falcon 9 first stage after launch.

SpaceX may bid on 13 additional launches the Air Force is preparing.

It hasn't been a smooth rocket launch for SpaceX.

The Eastern Range could see smoke and fire again Saturday evening when United Launch Alliance targets a 7:44 p.m. liftoff of a military communications satellite on a Delta IV rocket.

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