SpaceX Aims To Disrupt Launch Markets

By Graham Warwick , William N. Ostrove
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
December 30, 2013
Credit: SpaceX

Successful launch of the SES-8 commercial communications satellite by Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Falcon 9 v1.1 booster on Dec. 3 could signal a seismic shift in the launch-vehicle market. Not only was the launch SpaceX's first for a commercial payload to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), it was another step toward coveted certification of the Falcon 9 to compete for lucrative U.S. government launches under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program long exclusively held by United Launch Alliance (ULA).

With the third Falcon 9 v1.1 launch, and second commercial mission (carrying Thaicom 6), planned for late December, SpaceX could be close to meeting the U.S. Air Force requirements for certification of the launch vehicle. At stake are 14 launches the Air Force has set aside for competitive procurement—a move intended, along with the first-ever “block buy” of 36 core stages with ULA, to tame escalating EELV costs.

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