Air Force, SpaceX Advance Falcon 9 Certification Process

The Air Force signed an agreement with SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., as part of the company’s efforts to secure certification for its Falcon 9 launch vehicle to conduct national security space launches, announced service space officials on Tuesday. Under the cooperative research and development agreement, signed on June 7, SpaceX will share proprietary information with the Air Force on its Falcon 9 v1.1 booster and the Air Force commits to protect that data, states the Space and Missile Systems Center’s June 11 release. This access will help the Air Force to evaluate the Falcon 9 and determine whether it is able to conduct NSS missions. Certification would not guarantee contract awards, but would enable SpaceX—as well as other launch vehicle providers seeking to enter this market—to compete for NSS launch contracts. Those contracts could come as early as Fiscal 2015 for launch services as early as Fiscal 2017, states the release. Currently, only United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters are certified for NSS missions. (Los Angeles report by Alicia Garges) (See also SpaceX Wins its First EELV-Class Missions.)