Well, this is a first — for both sides! SpaceX is now launching spy satellites for the U.S. government, with the first launch coming on Sunday, April 30 at some point after 7am EST. The contract for the launch, which was awarded confidentially, is the first for the futuristic reusable rocket company. It marks a turning point in government contracts for spy satellites as this will be the only launch out of 25 done since 2006 that is being not carried out by the United Launch Alliance, which itself is made up of the government contract stalwarts Boeing and Lockheed Martin. A report from Quartz says that this launch could net SpaceX $100 million or more which might not be more than a drop in the bucket for Elon Musk but is still a pretty chunk of change.
Even though the company has carried out launches of its reusable rockets successfully multiple times at this point, this won’t be one of them. Unsurprisingly, the government isn’t completely comfortable with a launch mechanism that has been used once before. However, SpaceX says that even though this will be a fresh construction, they will recycle it for future private launches. Maybe the government can be won over once the company’s current two Air Force contracts are completed successfully and without any accidental incinerations of their payload. If all goes well with the launch, this satellite will be used for surveillance of “North Korea’s nuclear program, China’s island-building in the South China Sea, and other activities of interest to US officials.”