SpaceX Falcon 9 now also certified for DoD missions

Just a week after its NASA Category 2 greenlight, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket has just received a new certification. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center or SMC has just announced that the launch system has been certified for use in national security space missions. While this doesn't immediately mean that the Falcon 9 will carry the DoD's next payload, it does mean that SpaceX is now eligible to bid for such contracts, making it one of only two certified launch providers, the other being the United Launch Alliance (ULA).

This certification comes a year after SpaceX filed a legal challenge questioning the choice of ULA, made up of a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, in a contract on a "sole-source basis without any competition". The Elon Musk company also claimed that the deal was too expensive, a topic that goes to the heart of its mission to provide more affordable space travel.

It seems that its legal action had the intended effect. The certification of the Falcon 9 means that SpaceX can take part in the bidding for National Security Space missions, a normal process when trying to grab government contracts. The competition will, in theory, also help in cutting down costs and easing the burden off taxpayers by utilizing commercial companies that try to outbid each other in terms of costs.

It's not a complete victory yet for SpaceX. It will first have to face off with its ULA rival in June, when the US Air Force makes a Request for Proposal for GPS III launch services. If SpaceX's Falcon 9 wins that bid, only then can SpaceX boast of winning two government contracts.

But even if it doesn't, it still has one to fall back on in July. SpaceX was able to secure an $82 million contract from a joint venture by the US and France. It will use the Falcon 9 launch system to put a Jason 3 satellite into orbit, which will measure sea roughness using satellite imaging.

SOURCE: US Air Force