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SpaceX's Air Force certification faces scrutiny from Pentagon auditor



The Air Force returned in 2015, Bloomberg first reported. In a letter to Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, the Inspector General, Michael Roark, wants to know if the certification process complies with the Air Force's guidelines for certifying new launch vehicles.

The news comes nearly four years after SpaceX fought and won the ability to launch military satellites with its Falcon 9 rocket. The United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But SpaceX so wanted the ability to bid for national security contracts, and the company's Air Force in 201

4 for $ 11 billion.

SpaceX settled on the Air Force. The company has received approval in May 2015 to fly national security launches, and these kinds of missions have become a big part of SpaceX's business ever since. The Air Force is now launching the Air Force's secretive spaceplane, the X-37B, in 2017. SpaceX also has numerous launches lined up for the Air Force in the future, including a Couple on the company's more massive Falcon Heavy Rocket.

It's unclear how the outcome of this new evaluation will affect any of SpaceX's future missions, though. The Inspector general's audit will be done at the Space and Missile Systems Center, El Segundo, California. The DOD inspector did not provide any further clarification on why this is being done now. SpaceX, however, did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

However, it's possible recent action from lawmakers in California – where SpaceX is located – may have prompted this new review. In early February, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) wrote letter to Sec. Wilson Arguing for the Air Force Awards Launch Agreements, Space News . The Air Force awarded in October, meant to further the development of new national airlines payloads. The awards, worth a combined $ 2.3 billion, went to three companies: Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance. SpaceX was left out, despite the fact the company is developing a massive rocket called the Starship.

Eventually, the Air Force intends to select at least two launch providers in 2020. Since SpaceX is currently certified to launch military satellites, it's still in the running, despite not receiving the October investment from the Defense Department. But in their letter, Feinstein and Calvert argued that the recent awards created "unfair playing field," according to Space News .


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