United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture between America’s two largest defense contractors, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has long held a monopoly on the launching of United States military satellites by private entities. However, after some prolonged legal conflicts with SpaceX, the United States Air Force has decided to certify the company to launch military and spy satellites, thus ending the monopoly and marking a major milestone for SpaceX.
The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said it has certified privately held SpaceX to launch U.S. military and spy satellites, ending a monopoly held by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, since its creation in 2006. The decision follows two years of discussions, reviews and legal disputes between the U.S. Air Force and Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, and means the company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, can compete for national security launches with its Falcon 9 rocket. “SpaceX’s emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement. Leveraging SpaceX’s investment in an alternate launch vehicle would help drive down the cost and help improve the U.S. military’s resiliency, James said. SpaceX’s first opportunity to compete against ULA would come in June, when the Air Force said it expects to kick off a competition for launches of additional Global Positioning System III satellites built by Lockheed.