Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the El Segundo-based developer of low-cost rockets, signed a launch contract with a British telecommunications company worth up to $150 million if all options are exercised, the South Bay firm said Thursday, the Daily Breeze reports.

The agreement calls for the rocket maker, known in the industry as SpaceX, to launch the first of as many as four satellites starting in 2009. The satellites would go up in the Falcon 9 rocket, a larger version of the company's original Falcon 1.

The customer is United Kingdom-based Avanti Communications Group.

"Avanti thoroughly and objectively reviewed all the launch vehicles in the world and picked Falcon 9, which is a major endorsement of SpaceX," said Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX, in a statement. "Falcon 9 is designed to the higher standards and safety margins required to carry astronauts for NASA, making it well suited for high value satellite missions."

Even before the Avanti contract, SpaceX had racked up an impressive backlog of launches worth about $400 million.

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