UPDATE 2-U.S. Air Force certifies SpaceX for national security launches
(Adds further details)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON May 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said it has certified privately held SpaceX to launch U.S. military and spy satellites, ending a monopoly held by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, since its creation in 2006.
The decision follows two years of discussions, reviews and legal disputes between the U.S. Air Force and Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, and means the company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, can compete for national security launches with its Falcon 9 rocket.
"SpaceX's emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade," Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement.
Leveraging SpaceX's investment in an alternate launch vehicle would help drive down the cost and help improve the U.S. military's resiliency, James said.
SpaceX's first opportunity to compete against ULA would come in June, when the Air Force said it expects to kick off a competition for launches of additional Global Positioning System III satellites built by Lockheed.
The certification, initially expected at the end of last year, followed two years of intensive reviews by the Air Force and SpaceX, which already has won significant contracts with NASA to launch cargo and crews to the International Space Station.
The Air Force said it spent more than $60 million and dedicated 150 people to the effort, which included 125 criteria, 2,800 discreet tasks, three certification flight demonstrations, 21 major subsystem reviews and 700 audits aimed at establishing a technical baseline for future flight worthiness determinations. Continuación...