WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force will save $53 million in launch expenses due to a contract modification with SpaceX, which will allow the company to reuse Falcon 9 first-stage boosters for future launches.

“[The Space and Missile Systems Center’s] SMC’s commitment to innovative partnerships and working with the commercial sector while maintaining our mission assurance posture and mission-success record cannot be understated,” said Walt Lauderdale, who serves as the center’s Falcon systems and Operations Division chief as well as frequent mission director. “I am proud of our partnership with SpaceX that allowed us to successfully negotiate contract modifications for the upcoming GPS III missions that will save taxpayers $52.7 million while maintaining our unprecedented record of success.”

Under the contract modification, the reused boosters will first be used to launch the fifth and sixth GPS III space vehicles, with the first of those launches to take place in 2021.

“SpaceX is proud to leverage Falcon 9′s flight-proven benefits and capabilities for national security space launch missions,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, in a statement. “We appreciate the effort that the U.S. Space Force invested into the evaluation and are pleased that they see the benefits of the technology. Our extensive experience with reuse has allowed SpaceX to continually upgrade the fleet and save significant precious tax dollars on these launches.”

SpaceX first collaborated with the Space and Missile Systems Center to recover a booster from the third GPS III launch on June 30, 2020, and plans to recover a booster from the upcoming GPS III launch on Sept. 29. That launch will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The company has been recovering and reusing its boosters for commercial launches for some time now. According to SpaceX, it has recovered boosters from 53 launches and reused them in another 38 launches.

“The United States' launch industry is the envy of the world,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. “Industry’s innovation has been key to SMC’s success over our 60+ year existence. I am thrilled to welcome SpaceX’s innovative reuse into the National Security Space Launch program!”

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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