Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, has announced the certification of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket for national security space missions.
“SpaceX is now eligible for award of qualified national security space launch missions as one of two currently certified launch providers,” Air Force officials said in a press statement. “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 Global Positioning System III launch services.
"SpaceX's emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military's resiliency."
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 discreet tasks, three 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.