Open For Competition - Air Force Releases EELV NROL-79 RFP

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In what could be a blow to United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Air Force yesterday released a Request For Proposal for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) NROL-79 mission scheduled for 2016.

The expected move allows SpaceX to compete with ULA for the right to launch the National Reconnaissance Office classified satellite and is the first time in 10 years an EELV procurement has been open to competition.

While the move will please SpaceX it still has a long way to go before it can compete for all EELV launches.

SpaceX completed one milestone this week when the Air Force deemed that the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket had successfully completed three flights which meets the Air Force requirement for the flight experience.

"I applaud SpaceX on achieving the three flights. With this significant part of the agreed-to path in certifying the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch system complete, we look forward to working with SpaceX to complete the remaining certification activities and providing SpaceX with the opportunity to compete for EELV missions," said Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, SMC commander.

SpaceX is hoping that it completes certification this year, and while the Air Force doesn't rule out that possibility, it will take substantial work according to General William L. Shelton remarking at today's Senate joint hearing on Options for Assuring Domestic Space Access.

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