After waiting for three long years, the Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) has finally got the certification required for flying NASA missions into space. However, even after being certified, it will only be allowed to fly medium level missions.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has been tagged as a Category 2 launch vehicle i.e. a launch vehicle suitable for carrying “medium risk” consignments; examples include: less costly probes, satellites, etc.
On Saturday, George Diller, a spokesperson of NASA, informed that the agency’s Launch Services Program completed the certification process earlier in the week.
This certification provides Falcon 9 with the power of carrying out all NASA science missions except its costliest robotic missions. For flying those robotic missions, a rocket must have the Category 3 certification.
The first launch of the Falcon 9 rocket will take place in the month of July at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Reports suggest that this July launch has been organized for putting Jason 3, a joint US-French oceanographic satellite, into orbit for measuring oceanic roughness.
SpaceX won the $82 million contract for delivering Jason 3 to space way back in 2012; however, it couldn’t complete the job. This happened because NASA took as many as three years for certifying SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket as a Category 2 launch vehicle.
Right now, the US space agency needs a Category 3 launch vehicle similar to vehicles like the Pegasus XL from aerospace manufacturer Orbital ATK and Delta 2 and Atlas 5 from launch service provider ULA (United launch Alliance).
As a rocket certified by NASA, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will now be winning several other NASA contracts. However, at this moment, NASA has just one other task planned for SpaceX. It will be using SpaceX’s vehicle for launching TESS, a planet searching satellite; the event will take place in Florida sometime in 2017.
Other than using SpaceX’s rocket for its missions, NASA has another thing in common with the aerospace manufacturing company. For those who don’t know: both NASA and SpaceX are currently working for colonizing the Red Planet Mars.
After NASA, we might soon see the US Air Force certifying the Falcon 9 rocket. The US Air Force, according to reports, will be using the rocket for launching national security satellites.