Feb. 20 (UPI) -- United Launch Services was awarded a $441.7 million contract to launch military satellites to orbit, the U.S. Defense Department announced.
The Space and Missile Systems Center of the U.S. Air Force, in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office, made the award for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services. Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, also received a $297 million contract from the Air Force to launch AFSPC-44, NROL-85 and NROL-87 satellites into orbit.
The United Launch Services contract, announced Tuesday, calls for the company, based in Centennial, Colo., to provide services including launch vehicle production, mission integration, mission launch operations and other activities. Satellites involved include the classified space situational awareness program known as "Silent Barker," as well as the SBIRS GEO-5 program, whose sensing capabilities are part of infrared surveillance and missile warning.
The contract includes an option for additional launch services for the SBIRS GEO-6 program. "Silent Barker" is expected to launch in 2022. GEO-5 will launch in 2021, with GEO-6 launching in 2022.
United Launch Services is a division of United Launch Alliance, a joint effort of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
"The competitive award of these EELV launch service contracts directly supports SMC's mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our nation while maintaining assured access to space" Lt. Gen. John Thompson said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Contracting Division, Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base is the contracting agent for the United Launch Services and SpaceX contracts.