SpaceX to launch DOD payload; hopes third time is a charm

SpaceX will launch a DOD satellite aboard its Falcon 1 rocket in June. The Falcon will carry the Operationally Responsive Space Office’s first jumpstart mission.

The ORS payload will be SpaceDev’s Trailblazer spacecraft bus, originally developed under a Missile Defense Agency contract. Trailblazer will demonstrate a flexible, modular commercial bus design using off the shelf components.

Falcon 1 also will carry a rideshare adapter experiment for ATSB of Malaysia and two CubeSat payloads.

In a press release, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the DOD’s decision demonstrated confidence in his company.

“In purchasing this flight, the Department of Defense’s ORS Office has given SpaceX a tremendous endorsement,” Musk said. “We look forward to demonstrating our ability to be a key ORS enabler with rapid and responsive call-up, integration and launch.

SpaceX has conducted two unsuccessful launches of the Falcon 1. The first exploded shortly after liftoff; the second reached space but failed to achieve orbit.

“The Jumpstart mission is an important milestone for Operationally Responsive Space,” said Colonel Kevin McLaughlin, who heads up ORS. “It demonstrates many of the ORS enablers needed to achieve the responsiveness timelines demanded by our deployed forces. The SpaceX Falcon launch capability is expected to be a key contributor in the responsive launch arena and we are pleased to be their teammate on this important mission.”

ORS, which operates out of Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, is focused on faster, better and cheaper methods of acquiring, developing and deploying military space assets.