SpaceX made history 2 weeks ago becoming the very first private company to launch a capsule into space and have it dock with the International Space Station. Now that the Dragon has successfully returned to earth, SpaceX can start working on it's contract through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The resupply contract for the International Space Station has it making 12 runs, and since it is reusable, they will have the ability to ferry items back and forth, not just trash but experiments.
This launch was the second one for the Falcon 9 and after a third successful one they will be allowed to bid for military contracts to launch satellites into space. "The new entrant criteria did say three launches are required (for Falcon 9) before certification can happen for national security payloads," said SpaceX Communications Director Kirstin Brost Grantham.
"If the new entrant has a launch vehicle with a more robust, demonstrated successful flight history, then we may require less technical evaluation for certification. But, it also depends on the risk assessment of the mission," Air Force spokeswoman Tracy Bunko said. Which basically means that it is at the Air Forces discretion as to whether the launch vehicle (Falcon 9) is sound enough to launch national security payloads into space. If it isn't then more testing of the technology will take place.
All of this is great news for the taxpayers because right now there is only one company certified to launch the satellites and that is United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. In the mean time ULA will remain the sole provider of heavy and medium lift commercial launch services to the U.S. military with its Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets. But watch for SpaceX to start getting some of those contracts once its Falcon 9 Heavy is ready. Once the Falcon 9 Heavy is ready it will be the most powerful rocket currently in use in the world and the second most powerful rocket of all time behind the Saturn V rockets used to take the astronauts to the moon.
"The one market that we have not yet been successful with is launching Defense Department satellites, although we're hopeful that we'll win one or two demonstration launches this year," CEO Elon Musk said after Dragon's return from orbit. "Hopefully the successive flights of Falcon 9 in a row will give them the confidence they need to open up the defense contract for competition."
picture courtesy of SpaceX