SpaceX Pursues Air Force

Hawthorne-based commercial rocket and spaceship developer SpaceX is expanding its range of possible customers today, with a deal with the military's Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). According to the center, it has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., to evaluate the use of SpaceX's Falcon 9 for launching payloads into space.

According to the SMC, it will help certify SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 launch system for National Security Space (NSS) missions. The certifications require at least three flights to gain flight history, and then a determination on whether SpaceX has the capability to launch those missions for the military. Currently, the only certified launch vehicles for the Air Force are the United Launch Alliance's Delta IV and Atlas V rockets.

The Space and Missle Systems Center said the earliest a launch contract would be awarded would be 2015, with the first launch in 2017.