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SpaceX tries to break into the spy satellite industry

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TITUSVILLE, FL - MAY 22:  SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft atop rocket Falcon 9 lifts off from Pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Titusville, Florida. The launch this morning  makes SpaceX the first commercial company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. (Photo by Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images)
Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft atop rocket Falcon 9 lifts off from Pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Titusville, Florida. The launch this morning makes SpaceX the first commercial company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station.

SpaceX wants to send spy satellites into orbit. It's a lucrative business opportunity, but before they can get there they have plenty of problems to overcome.

SpaceX is sending supplies up to the International Space Station today, which is a big deal for the small company that's trying to establish itself in the space industry.

RELATED: SpaceX rocket launches to International Space Station Monday

But as it turns out the company has loftier ambitions, they want to break into the business of shipping spy satellites. That's a bit tough, as it's an industry that's been dominated by only a couple of companies (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) for decades now.

In his piece for the Los Angeles Times, writer W.J. Hennigan, details the deal reached between the two aerospace giants to create the United Launch Alliance, which basically helped them offset the costs of sending spy satellites into space.

Cost is something that could be a problem for SpaceX as a young startup. It's successfully sent a few payloads to the International Space Station, a few satellites into orbit, but never anything as sensitive as something that deals with national security.

Hennigan details the small margin of error for shipping something that's important to national security and costs more than a billion dollars into orbit. The United Launch Alliance has been very effective at sending satellites into space over the years.

But if SpaceX can offer the government a cheaper option that's just as secure as anything from Boeing or Lockheed, then the opportunity to upset the market is there, says Hennigan.

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