The US Air Force has certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch military and spy satellites. Currently, the control of those launches is controlled by the United Launch Alliance, a Boeing and Lockheed Martin consortium.
Elon Musk and SpaceX disbursed more than $60 million and a time span of 2years to finally obtain the certification.
Space X has become a major competitor in the space industry recently, having already won a NASA contract to take astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station.
An Air Force media release remarks that the company’s first opportunity to bid to provide launch services will probably be in June, for the GPS III satellite launch.
“This is a very important milestone for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” said the Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, who added:
SpaceX’s emergence as a potential commercial launch provider gives the opportunity to compete for launch services for the first time in almost a decade.
Eventually, controlling of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military’s resiliency.
Pronounces by the Air Force that this “milestone” as “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”.
In January, SpaceX declared that it had attained an agreement with the USAF for “a path forward for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program that improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches”.
The agreement was part of a settlement causing an extended era of grief between the USAF and SpaceX, during which Elon Musk accused a former official of bribery.
Per the settlement, SpaceX dismissed its claims relating to the EELV block buy contract, which at that time was pending in the US Court of Federal Claims.
The Air Force agreed to work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process “in an efficient and expedient manner.”