| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 9
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 9 United Launch
Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing
said on Friday it was not given an opportunity to bid
against rival SpaceX for the upcoming launch of the U.S. Air
Force’s miniature X-37B space plane.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson disclosed during
congressional testimony on Tuesday that the service was planning
to fly its fifth X-37B mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“ULA did not have the opportunity to bid for the Air Force’s
fifth X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) mission which was
recently awarded. ULA remains fully committed to continuing to
support America’s national security missions with world-class
launch services,” the company said in a statement.
Only United Launch Alliance and SpaceX are certified to
launch U.S. military satellites.
The Air Force on Friday declined to confirm that it awarded
the contract to Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX,
without soliciting other bids. It also declined to say when the
contract was awarded or how much it is worth.
Four previous X-37B missions were launched by United Launch
Alliance Atlas 5 rockets.
SpaceX’s first publicly disclosed launch contract for the
Air Force was awarded last year for a next-generation Global
Positioning System satellite flight in 2018. A second GPS launch
contract was awarded in March. The contracts are valued at $83
million and $96.5 million respectively.
United Launch Alliance did not bid for the first GPS launch
contract but did compete and lost the second.
In May 2016, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
disclosed it had hired SpaceX to launch a spy satellite aboard a
Falcon 9. The mission, which was arranged through an
intermediary, Ball Aerospace, took place last month.
SpaceX is owned and operated by technology entrepreneur
Musk, who is also chief executive of electric car maker Tesla
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)