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For years, the Air Force had only one company that carried out missions to launch the nation's most precious satellites into orbit under a program called the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.
The Pentagon has paid Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. — operating jointly as United Launch Alliance — to launch the government's pricey spy satellites without seeking competitive bids. Some of the satellites cost more than $1bn and take years to build.
The announcement allows Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket maker SpaceX to vie for one of the world's most lucrative space programs. The upstart firm and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have been publicly fighting all year to compete for military contracts.
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