On Tuesday of this week, SpaceX entered a new and very important phase of their operations. The U.S. Air Force certified Elon Musk’s space exploration company to launch satellites for the Pentagon, making it only the second company to be cleared to do so. This certification essentially means that SpaceX can now run with the big dogs on the frontlines of aerospace exploration, competing against United Launch Alliance (ULA) for contracts to launch national security satellites.
ULA is joint space venture formed in 2006 by Lockheed Martin and Boeing Defense, Space & Security, and they currently hold contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense. Musk has wanted SpaceX to bid for those same contracts for several years, and he began the efforts to make it so last year, when he sued the Air Force and claimed that ULA had an unfair monopoly over Pentagon satellite contracts because, in 2012, ULA was indeed the only contractor certified to perform such launches.
The suit was a calculated risk, and it paid off. Musk dropped the suit in January when the Air Force agreed to begin the certification process for SpaceX. Completion wasn’t guaranteed, but Musk rarely stops until he’s gotten what he wants, so it’s not a shock to learn that SpaceX has earned the right to compete for Pentagon contracts. Surely, others will now follow in Musk’s footsteps, although ideally without that pesky legal action phase.
Musk said in a statement that the certification is an “important step” for SpaceX. That statement, curiously, did not come from Musk’s Twitter account, his standard platform of choice for notable announcements, although he did nonchalantly tweet a link to the post from the Air Force Public Affairs office.
Images via SpaceX