U.S. Air Force certifies SpaceX Falcon 9 upgrade

By Ryan Maass  |  Jan. 27, 2016 at 10:40 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force has updated the certification of SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9, clearing it for use in National Security space missions.

The certification makes SpaceX one of two certified launch providers for NSS launch missions, along with United Launch Alliance.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said the certification gives the Air Force confidence the company will be able to deliver a new launch system.

"The certification process provides a path for launch-service providers to demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify, and deliver a new launch system and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver NSS satellites to orbit," Greaves said. "This gives the Air Force confidence that the national security satellites will safely achieve the intended orbits with full mission capability."

The upgraded version of the Falcon 9 is taller and has more thrust that its predecessor. The 229-foot rocket contains a chilled mixture of liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene kept at lower temperatures than earlier versions.

Certifications ensure new entrants are able to meet the Air Force's launch requirement standards, including payload mass-to-orbit, orbital insertion accuracy, and other requirements.

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