And for the first time in two years, the private spaceflight company did not attempt to recover the rocket by landing it on ground at nearby Landing Zone 1 or at sea on an autonomous drone ship.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL-The ground shook at NASA's historic Kennedy Space Center early this morning as SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket.
The satellite will provide better anti-jamming capabilities and improved accuracy for precision navigation and timing, according to the Air Force. For the same launch, SpaceX charges about $60 million, while the ULA charges $109 million, almost double.
The contract has been awarded under the current Phase IA procurement strategy, which reintroduced competition for national security space launch services.
If all goes well, SpaceX hopes to launch an SES communications satellite around March 27, the first flight of a "used" Falcon 9 first stage. The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions.
EchoStar, based in Englewood, Colo., operates 25 geosynchronous communications satellites.
For perspective, while the price tag wasn't the only factor in the defense industry bidding process, the costs of the Atlas V began at $184 million.
This is the first Falcon 9 to be used without landing gears in nearly two years, according to Space.com. These contracts for military launches feature satellites allowing troops to communicate on battlefields.
In a statement, SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said the company was proud to have been selected. The SpaceX mission put EchoStar's XXIIII satellite into orbit 22,000 miles up, after a launch that occurred at 2 AM ET on Thursday.
SpaceX may bid on 13 additional launches the Air Force is preparing. The next should be awarded this summer, Leon said. This time around, the company had to say goodbye to the booster in the sea. Last month's space station resupply launch was the first from the pad since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.