SpaceX lands commercial contract

ByJames Dean, Florida Today
May 29, 2012, 6:48 PM

— -- SpaceX announced its first commercial contract Tuesday to launch a heavy-lift rocket still in development.

The Falcon Heavy will launch an Intelsat communications satellite to geosynchronous orbit, according to a news release.

The timing of the launch and value of the contract were not specified. SpaceX says it offers Falcon Heavy launches for $80 million to $125 million.

SpaceX is building a Falcon Heavy launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The first version of the rocket is expected to arrive there late this year and launch a first test flight next year.

Featuring three core Falcon 9 boosters strapped together, SpaceX's says the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V, blasting off with 3.8 million pounds of thrust from 27 engines first-stage engines.

"SpaceX is very proud to have the confidence of Intelsat, a leader in the satellite communication services industry," said Elon Musk, SpaceX chief executive and chief designer, said in a statement.

Last week, SpaceX became the first private company to have its cargo vehicle dock at the International Space Station. On Saturday, astronauts opened the hatch of the company's Dragon capsule and began unloading a half ton of supplies Monday. Empty, that capsule is designed to fly up to seven people.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched the capsule into space May 22, and it is expected to return Thursday to Earth.

"Timely access to space is an essential element of our commercial supply chain," Intelsat CTO Thierry Guillemin said. "As a global leader in the satellite sector, our support of successful new entrants to the commercial launch industry reduces risk in our business model."

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