Air Force certifies Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch national security missions

May 18, 2015 – 04:51 pm

It took a court case, tens of millions of dollars and some heated words, but Elon Musk's quest to be able to launch satellites for the Pentagon finally concluded Tuesday.

The Air Force announced that SpaceX, Musk's California-based company won its long-awaited certification from the Pentagon.

And now Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, has earned the right to do what's he's angling to do for years: take on the United Launch Alliance, the behemoth space company that's a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which has had a virtual monopoly on the lucrative work of flying Pentagon satellites into space for years.

Last year, Musk, of PayPal and Tesla fame, sued the Air Force saying that his company should be able to compete against ULA. Musk and the Pentagon eventually settled the suit, and the Air Force pledged to work closely with SpaceX to get it certified so that it could compete for the contracts to send military satellites and other national security payloads into space.

The right to compete is the latest in a series of victories for SpaceX, which became the first commercial space company to resupply the International Space Station for NASA, and last year won a contract to fly astronauts there by 2017.

Now, with the Pentagon as a potential customer, the company could continue to see steady growth while also compiling important experience, as it attempts to develop space craft that would eventually take humans to Mars.

In a statement, Musk called it an "important step, " thanked the Air Force and said the company looked "forward to serving it well."

"SpaceX's emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade, " said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. "Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military's resiliency."


Source: www.washingtonpost.com

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