SpaceX’s successful static firing of its Falcon Heavy rocket Wednesday in preparation for the rocket’s expected maiden flight next month is important for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. Why?
It could lead to big savings.
Today, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has a tight grip on government contracts for the largest military payloads. ULA’s Delta IV rocket is the only certified provider for those missions, often used to lift classified satellites.
Although the Air Force certified the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 to launch military satellites in May 2015, it has not yet certified the larger Falcon Heavy rocket needed for the larger payloads.
A successful Falcon Heavy launch — and subsequent certification from the Air Force —would change the landscape of the industry, and require the Air Force and intelligence agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office to reevaluate their acquisition plans.