Since the launch of the first satellite, space has been a rhetorical battleground. When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, it ushered in a bold new era of international cooperation in the heavens. One of the more remarkable results of this is that, for years, American military satellites were launched into space on the backs of converted Russian rocket engines.
However, since Russia's annexation of Crimea and continued support for armed separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine, reusing these old engines became somewhat politically toxic. To get American military satellites on American-made rockets, the United States Air Force just awarded contracts to Orbital ATK and SpaceX to build them.
SpaceX's $33.6 million share of the contract is aimed at further developing the "Raptor" rocket engine, which will be six times more powerful than the engine the company will use to launch a satellite on Sunday.