The U.S. Air Force expects to decide by early 2014 if the maiden launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket will count toward a new process to qualify the company to launch national security assets, a service spokeswoman said.
Officials with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) expect credit for the flight despite being unable to reignite the rocket’s upper-stage engine in a test that followed deployment of the satellite payload. They also expect to service to count the following mission, a Dec. 3 flight for satellite operator SES, Emily Shanklin, a SpaceX spokeswoman, said in a Dec. 23 email.
During the second flight, the Falcon 9 v1.1’s upper stage successfully reignited to place the SES-8 telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit, a first for Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX. SES elected to proceed with the launch despite the reignition failure in the previous mission.
“All mission requirements were met and thus we believe the Air Force will count these flights towards certification,” Shanklin said.
SpaceX needs to fly three successful missions with the same configuration and to meet other requirements in order to compete with ULA for military and national security launches.
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