US Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 for National Security Launches
[Via Satellite 05-27-2015] After a two-year effort, the United States Air Force has officially certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch system for national security space missions. SpaceX is now able to compete for these missions in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program with current incumbent United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
To achieve certification, the Falcon 9 had to meet 125 different certification criteria, including three flight demonstrations, 21 major subsystem reviews, 160 payload interface requirement verifications, 700 audits and more than 2,800 discreet tasks. The Air Force spent more than $60 million in the certification process, which involved 150 people and helped establish the technical baseline from which the Air Force will make future flight worthiness determinations for launch.
SpaceX’s first opportunity to compete is expected in June when the Air Force plans to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) for GPS 3 launch services. The Air Force issued a draft RFP this May and plans to compete nine launches between now and 2017, followed by another 25 from 2018 to 2022.
“The SpaceX and SMC teams have worked hard to achieve certification,” said Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in a statement. “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.”