The certification was awarded to the SpaceX's heavy-lift rocket even before it was launched a second time, marking another significant achievement for Musk's company, which is known for its work on disruptive technology. In an earlier statement, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Command mentioned that certifying the Falcon Heavy for national security and classified launches may require as few as two flights or as many as 14. The much-touted rocket made its maiden launch from the historic launchpad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Feb. 6, 2018. (See also: SpaceX, Uber Top CNBC 2018 Disruptor 50 List.)
Falcon Heavy's second flight is called Air Force's Space Test Program Flight 2 (STP-2), and is scheduled for launch in October this year. STP-2 will be an experimental launch flight, and is expected to carry up to 25 satellites to the designated orbit in space.
SpaceX Wins Another Launch Contract
The Department of Defense also announced that SpaceX has won a $130 million contract to launch the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite into orbit. SpaceX emerged the winner after underbidding other competitive offers, details of which are not released by the authorities. SpaceX expects the work for the contract to be complete in around two years.
This is not the first time SpaceX has won a U.S. military launch project. In March, the company won $291 million worth of new Air Force launch contracts that involved launching a military GPS-3 satellite by March 2020 using a Falcon 9 rocket, with an option included to launch two more later.
With its low-cost value proposition, SpaceX continues to grab market share of the U.S. military launch market from other players. The most prominent being United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing Co. (BA) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT). The Falcon Heavy rocket scored better than competing offerings by being much powerful and yet low cost. Falcon 9, the other SpaceX rocket, offers higher reusability and is being considered by NASA for human spaceflight capabilities. (See also: How Musk's SpaceX Is Beating Boeing?)
"SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions," said Gwynne Shotwell, the company's president and chief operating officer, in a statement.