ULA currently has a monopoly on U.S. military launch business. But in an attempt to certify more launchers, the Air Force is expected to award a non-ULA launch services contract this year for the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a former NASA Earth-monitoring satellite being repurposed by NOAA into a solar observatory. A request for bids under the Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP-3) was released May 11.
The criteria for new launchers was jointly developed by the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office and NASA.
The new NASA contract is the first evidence that Falcon 9 meets the new launcher criteria.
SpaceX will have plenty of chances to build Falcon’s flight history. The rocket’s launch manifest includes more than 40 flights, including 12 station cargo flights and the Jason-3 ocean survey satellite for NASA.