A Boeing-Lockheed joint venture's launch of a new Vulcan rocket this week inaugurated a formidable rival to Elon Musk's SpaceX, a milestone long sought by the U.S. government as it seeks to build a list of launch suppliers for its satellites.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin's United Launch Alliance sent Vulcan into space for the first time on Monday, a first step toward reclaiming market share from SpaceX, whose reusable Falcon 9 rocket for years has been the main option for countries to get their satellites into space. The payload, a privately funded moon lander, will not finish its mission because of tech problems, but the Vulcan launch in Florida was a success.

"This launch puts ULA in the front-runner position to challenge SpaceX's de facto monopoly over launch," said Caleb Henry, a space analyst at Quilty Analytics. "If ULA can prove that Vulcan can scale up to a rapid launch cadence quickly, they will provide the market with another route to space."