Licensed to Launch

The Air Force has granted Space Exploration Technologies Corp. an operational license to use space launch complex 40 at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., the company announced Sept. 9. Receipt of the license, in conjunction with the approved site plan, paves the way for SpaceX to initiate launch operations of its Falcon 9 rocket later this year and positions the company to realize its goal of conducting commercial space flights from the Cape. “We are developing Falcon 9 to be a valuable asset to the American space launch fleet,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and chief technology officer. SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles: the Falcon 1, the larger Falcon 9, and Falcon 9 Heavy. The company already is under contract to conduct three demonstration flights of the Falcon 9 for NASA and has had three flights of its Falcon 1 for DOD. The latter have not been end-to-end successes, but the company is pressing on, confident that the missions offered valuable lessons that it has applied to ensure future success. In a related matter regarding the Cape, the Air Force just last month agreed to lease SLC-36 for commercial space launches.