US Air Force
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has just landed another major milestone. SpaceX is now certified for national security space missions.
The US Air Force announced today that SpaceX can execute national security space missions. Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, has announced the certification of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Falcon 9 Launch System.
SpaceX is now eligible for to get contracted for national security space launch missions. There was only one certified launch provider with the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, United Launch Alliance (ULA). Now SpaceX is breaking this monopoly. The first upcoming opportunity for SpaceX to compete to provide launch services is projected to be in June when the Air Force releases a Request for Proposal for GPS III launch services.
“This is a very important milestone for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “SpaceX’s emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade. Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military’s resiliency.”
This milestone is the culmination of a significant two-year effort on the part of the Air Force and SpaceX to execute the certification process and reintroduce competition into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.
The Air Force invested more than $60 million and 150 people in the certification effort which encompassed 125 certification criteria, including more than 2,800 discrete tasks, 3 certification flight demonstrations, verifying 160 payload interface requirements, 21 major subsystem reviews and 700 audits in order to establish the technical baseline from which the Air Force will make future flight worthiness determinations for launch.
“The SpaceX and SMC teams have worked hard to achieve certification, said Greaves. “And we’re also maintaining our spaceflight worthiness process supporting the National Security Space missions. Our intent is to promote the viability of multiple EELV-class launch providers as soon as feasible.”
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer, stated, “This is an important step toward bringing competition to National Security Space launch. We thank the Air Force for its confidence in us and look forward to serving it well.”
The SMC, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force’s center for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.
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