The US Air Force has awarded a contract to Space ExplorationTechnologies (SpaceX) for global positioning system (GPS) III launch services.
Valued at around $82m, the National Security Space (NSS) launch services contract covers launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations for a GPS III mission.
The NSS contract requires SpaceX to launch GPS III-2 satellite aboard its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in May 2018 to support the navigation system for both military and civilian users.
USAF space programme executive officer lieutenant general Samuel Greaves said: "This GPS III launch services contract award achieves a balance between mission success, meeting operational needs, lowering launch costs, and reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions."
The satellite would provide improved anti-jamming capabilities, as well as improved accuracy for precision navigation and timing.
It will incorporate the common L1C signal, which is compatible with the European Space Agency's Galileo global navigation satellite system and compliment current services with the addition of new civil and military signals.
SpaceX has won the contract by cutting down its costs by 40%, media sources reported citing Greaves.
The contract has been awarded under the current Phase IA procurement strategy, which reintroduced competition for national security space launch services.
Expected to be completed by July 2018, work under the contract will be carried out in Hawthorne, California; Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and McGregor, Texas, US.
Image: A SpaceX Falcon 9 stands ready for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo: courtesy of losangeles.af.mil.