Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SpaceX Falcon 9 Upgrade Certified for National Security Space Launches

A Falcon 9 upgrade sits poised on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station prior to its launch on Dec. 21, 2015. This was the first commercial launch of the Falcon 9 upgrade, which the Air Force certified for National Security Space launches on Jan. 25. The upgraded version is taller and has more thrust than the previous version of the rocket. Standing 229 feet tall, the Falcon 9 upgrade burns a super-chilled mixture of liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene colder than the propellants consumed on SpaceX’s earlier launches. SpaceX successfully landed the rocket’s first stage booster in a landing zone approximately six miles south of the launch pad. (Photo/SpaceX)

Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for space, updated the certified baseline configuration of SpaceX's Falcon 9 Launch System to Falcon 9 Upgrade, for use in National Security Space (NSS) missions. The baseline configuration was updated from the Falcon 9 Launch System to the Falcon 9 Upgrade on Jan. 25.

SpaceX is eligible for award of NSS launch missions, in accordance with the updated Certification Letter, as one of two currently certified launch providers.

The partnership between SpaceX and the Air Force continues as they focus on SpaceX's newest vehicle configuration, Falcon 9 Upgrade. SpaceX and Air Force technical teams will jointly work to complete the tasks required to prepare SpaceX and the Falcon 9 Upgrade for NSS missions.

This certification update takes into account all of the Spring 2015 Independent Review Committee's recommendations, including clarification that the SMC commander, as the certifying official, has the authority to grant certification and updates based on a New Entrant's demonstrated capability to design, produce, qualify and deliver their launch system. This includes allowing New Entrant certification with some open work, provided there are jointly approved work plans in place that support potential NSS mission processing timelines.

"The certification process provides a path for launch-service providers to demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify, and deliver a new launch system and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver NSS satellites to orbit," Greaves said. "This gives the Air Force confidence that the national security satellites will safely achieve the intended orbits with full mission capability."

The purpose of certification is to provide high confidence for successful NSS launches by determining that New Entrants are capable of meeting Air Force established launch requirements for the complex NSS challenges and environments. The Air Force has established launch standards that all launch providers must meet to become certified. Formal design and mission reliability assessments ensure the launch system's capability to provide the necessary payload mass-to-orbit, orbital insertion accuracy, and other requirements to place a healthy payload into its intended orbit.

The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

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