SpaceX Gets Air Force Certification

Los Angeles-based SpaceX has crossed a major hurdle in its efforts to provide launch services to the U.S. Department of Defense, and has been certified by the U.S. Air Force to carry out National Security space missions, according to the USAF. In an announcement from Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, the USAF said that SpaceX's Falcon has been certified to launch national security space missions, becoming the second, certified provider of launch services for those missions.

The certification comes after a long and contentious effort by SpaceX--which involved SpaceX suing the USAF and serious efforts to lobby Congress. The USAF's only other launch provider--the United Launch Alliance--relies on Russian-made launch engines. SpaceX had argued that the U.S. needed native launch capability, particularly in light of current tensions with Russia over Ukraine.