After a two-year approval process, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is now officially eligible to launch national security satellites, which could steer hundreds of millions of dollars to the Hawthorne company.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launch System can now compete against United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin that has been the sole provider of military satellite launch vehicles since 2006.
“This is an important step toward bringing competition to national security space launch,” Musk said in a statement. “We thank the Air Force for its confidence in us and look forward to serving it well.”
The approval, announced late Tuesday, came more than a year after SpaceX took legal action to protest the award of a launch contract to United Launch Alliance. The company argued that ULA was a monopoly and that its launches were grossly overpriced because of the lack of competition in the satellite launch market.
Tina Greer, a spokeswoman for the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, which oversees the procurement of launch vehicles, said SpaceX will be able to bid on its first launch mission next month.
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