Elon Musk's SpaceX has scored a major victory, earning a US Air Force certification that will allow it to launch spy satellites and other national security payloads into orbit. According to Defense One, it breaks a long-standing monopoly on military launches held by the United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
As D1 tells it, earning the certification was a battle on many fronts for SpaceX. It started with SpaceX suing the government after it awarded a multi-year, $11 billion contract, despite claims that it'd take a look at the competition. That case ended in a settlement, with the USAF promising to give competitors a fair shake in the future. Outside the courtroom, the Air Force brought in 150 service members to work alongside SpaceX's people, while the company's lobbyists did battle with ULA advocates in Congress.
Things on both sides seem happy enough now, though.
"SpaceX's emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement obtained by Defense One. "Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military's resiliency."
As for Musk, he thanked the Air Force for its confidence in the growing company.