SpaceX gets more contracts from Saudi Arabia, Spain

Sep 14, 2015

SpaceX, which operates a rocket-testing facility in McGregor, has secured additional work in the form of contracts to launch satellites for Saudi Arabia and for HISPASAT, which operates communications satellites for Spain.

The contracts were awarded during the recent World Satellite Business Conference in Paris, France, and bring to more than 60 the number of missions California-based SpaceX has on its manifest, representing more than $7 billion under contract.

“We are pleased to add these additional launches to our manifest,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, commenting in a prepared statement. “The diversity of our missions and customers represents a strong endorsement of our capabilities and reflects SpaceX’s efforts to provide a breadth of launch services to our growing customer base.”

The company will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Saudi Arabian Arabsat 6A communications satellite, while providing its less powerful Falcon 9 rocket to launch a communications satellite for HISPASAT.

Neither SpaceX nor its clients would divulge the exact amount of the contracts, but the SpaceX website reveals that a typical launch involving the Falcon 9 costs $61.2 million, while the Falcon Heavy fetches $90 million.

Arabsat, short for Arab Satellite Communications Organization, oversees the use of communications satellites in the Arab world.

HISPASAT is the operating company for a number of Spanish communications satellites that cover the Americas, Europe and North Africa. Its fleet of satellites broadcast more than 1,250 television channels and radio stations to more than 30 million homes, as well as providing services such as broadband to mobile telephones and landlines.

SpaceX will launch the missions from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida between late 2017 and 2018.

Founded by billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft, and became the first commercial entity to haul supplies to the International Space Station. It has released the design of a seven-person craft that NASA reportedly wants to use to carry astronauts to the station by 2017, eliminating the need to hop rides on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

It reportedly will receive $2.4 billion from NASA to prepare a manned craft suitable to fly to the station.

SpaceX, which tests many of its rockets at the company’s McGregor site, has secured contracts that bring SpaceX’s total contracts over $7 billion. Staff photo— Jerry Larson, file

McGregor facility

SpaceX employs more than 4,000 people in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., Washington state and Florida. It is in line to receive $3 million in incentives from the Waco- McLennan County Economic Development Corp. in exchange for promises to hire 300 additional employees in McGregor over the next few years, possibly bringing total employment at the facility there to nearly 600.

A SpaceX spokesman, who asked not to be named because he was speaking on background, said Monday that the awarding of additional contracts could accelerate the hiring process, adding, “The more we test, the more people we need.”

He said he could not comment specifically on the two new deals with Saudi Arabia and HISPASAT.

SpaceX is receiving $1.6 billion to make supply trips to the International Space Station. That service, which had been going smoothly, hit a snag in June, when a Falcon 9 rocket with about $115 million worth of supplies exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, prompting Musk to postpone any future launches until this fall at the earliest.

Musk later said crews think the explosion was caused by the failure of a 2-foot-long metal bar that held a helium tank in place. It began to thrash around the compartment that was supposed to contain it, leaking and then exploding.