SpaceX may have won a major national security contract from the US military

spacex may have won major national security contract spaceport
Elon Musk’s SpaceX may have finally won a large national security contract — although it’s worth mentioning that it might’ve done so by default. United Launch Alliance (ULA) told the Washington Post this week that it was withdrawing its bid on a new multi-year contract to launch new satellites for the Air Force starting in 2018.

The reason? New laws surrounding the use of Russian-manufactured engines in ULA’s rockets. Following the tensions in Ukraine, Congress passed legislation to phase out use of the RD-180 engine, with a complete ban starting in 2019. ULA says that it cannot find a new manufacturer able to deliver replacement engines in time, and would need to withdraw its bid as a result. That leaves SpaceX as the only other major contender, and the likely winner of the new contract.

Space X Rocket

It’s a surprising setback for ULA, given its backers. Pentagon contracts are big business for the defense industry, as it’s generally easy money for most contractors. ULA itself is a partnership between two major Pentagon suppliers — Lockheed Martin and Boeing — who together received an astounding $51.8 billion in payments from the US Government in 2014.

That fact isn’t lost on those at SpaceX. Last year, Musk and his company sued the Air Force over accusations it was giving preferential treatment to companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing. That suit was settled earlier this year after the Air Force opened up some of its contracts to broader competition and certified SpaceX for satellite launches in May.

All is not lost for ULA, though. Ars Technica reports that the company is working with American company Blue Origin on a new rocket engine. It is likely though that rockets based on Blue Origin engines will not be ready for testing until 2019, and won’t be ready for commercial use for several years thereafter.

Either way, ULA will need to move fast, or SpaceX might gain a larger foothold in the defense market. The Air Force plans to put up at least eight other launches for bids by the end of 2017, it says.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Mobile

Gorilla Glass 6 will cover the Xiaomi Mi 9's AMOLED screen

Xiaomi's next major smartphone release will be the Mi 9, and the company hasn't held back in giving us a good look at the phone, revealing the design, the camera, and a stunning color.
Home Theater

ATSC 3.0: The next-gen TV update explained

ATSC 3.0 is the next major update to the broadcast standard we use today. Will this be the second coming of free, over-the-air TV? We're here to explain everything about the new standard.
Home Theater

8K TV: Everything you need to know about the future of television

4K TVs may seem relatively new, but there's another even higher-resolution display technology already here: 8K TV. Should you upgrade? We've got the answers to that question and more.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.