Author Topic: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights  (Read 119950 times)

Online Chris Bergin

A really short statement:

Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights

The Air Force has certified SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch system as having conducted three successful flights, a prerequisite for companies seeking to win business from the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program.

Under Air Force standards, SpaceX is already qualified to compete for EELV missions, but SpaceX must also be certified by the Air Force before any contract can be awarded to the company. Meeting the criteria for successful flights is a key milestone in the certification process.

SpaceX expects to satisfy the remaining certification requirements later this year.
« Last Edit: 07/11/2014 09:31 pm by Chris Bergin »
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Offline mr. mark

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #1 on: 07/11/2014 07:11 pm »
Great news. At least now they qualify for future launches. Looking forward to certification.
« Last Edit: 07/11/2014 07:12 pm by mr. mark »

Offline e of pi

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #2 on: 07/11/2014 07:29 pm »
Chris, is this just certifying based on CASSIOPE, SES-8, and Thaicom, or is CRS-3 also under review? While I suspect it's the former, it'd be interesting to have the USAF also confirm Falcon-with-legs as "similar enough" to count on the same certification. Either way, it's good to hear.

Online clongton

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #3 on: 07/11/2014 07:31 pm »
Great news Chris. Thanks
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Offline baldusi

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #4 on: 07/12/2014 04:00 am »
Interesting. Is this Category 3 certification? If it's like NASA's then they chose the minimum number of missions for maximum qualification, which implies maximum insight and paperwork. BTW, I understand that since CRS-? Don't have a fairing, are not applicable to certification. It's apparently not only the fairing but payload interface. Of course that it does improves the confidence on most of the system.

Offline Kabloona

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #5 on: 07/12/2014 05:43 pm »
Yes, they chose (almost) the minimum number of launches (minimum would have been 2) with a maximim amount of paperwork. Aerospace Corp now will be evaluating all the subsystems and they say they expect to be done with their review by end of year. Lt Gen Davis says he expects the Air Force won't be done with their certification process until March 2015.

http://www.spacenews.com/article/military-space/40584aerospace-corp-says-it-won%E2%80%99t-cut-corners-on-spacex-certification

And there was this bit from Gen Pawlikowski re the options SpaceX had for certification:

"While sympathetic to the slowness of the process, Pawlikowski said Musk should be aware of what he signed up for. She said Musk signed an agreement with “great, great detail” on what information SpaceX would have to provide.

“The document is actually a little over 200 pages long,” she said. “So there’s not any secrets about what the expectation is to be certified.”

The key to speeding up certification may lie in a decision made early in the process. At the start of certification, a company can choose from four options for the number of launches it will undertake: two, three, six or 14. The more launches, the less technical data it has to submit to the Air Force.

“There is a lot of information that we require to see when you only have three launches versus 14 launches,” Pawlikowski said. “If they had put forward that they wanted to go into that 14-launch column, then we would have required a lot less in-depth understanding of their processes, both manufacturing and design.”

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140628/DEFREG02/306280021/Despite-Lawsuits-Disagreements-SpaceX-USAF-Moving-Forward
« Last Edit: 07/12/2014 06:09 pm by Kabloona »

Offline Nomadd

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #6 on: 07/12/2014 05:49 pm »
Great news. At least now they qualify for future launches. Looking forward to certification.
I believe the gist is, the F9 qualifies, but SpaceX still has a way to go. Two different things.
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Offline butters

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #7 on: 07/12/2014 06:00 pm »
We like your results but cannot condone your methods.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #8 on: 07/12/2014 07:25 pm »
Interesting. Is this Category 3 certification? If it's like NASA's then they chose the minimum number of missions for maximum qualification, which implies maximum insight and paperwork. BTW, I understand that since CRS-? Don't have a fairing, are not applicable to certification. It's apparently not only the fairing but payload interface. Of course that it does improves the confidence on most of the system.

The intent and objective is the same as NASA Category 3 certification (Class A payloads).  Anything less dooes not achieve "full and open competition" for NSS missions, targeted to begin in FY2018.  Between now and then for the competed launches available to new entrants, DOD will use a "best value" approach, which among other things includes risk.

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #9 on: 07/12/2014 08:09 pm »
Interesting outcome, thanks Chris! :)
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Offline Prober

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #10 on: 07/12/2014 10:07 pm »
We like your results but cannot condone your methods.

"While sympathetic to the slowness of the process, Pawlikowski said Musk should be aware of what he signed up for. She said Musk signed an agreement with “great, great detail” on what information SpaceX would have to provide.

“The document is actually a little over 200 pages long,” she said. “So there’s not any secrets about what the expectation is to be certified.”


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Offline SoulWager

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #11 on: 07/12/2014 11:53 pm »
Does this mean SpaceX has supplied all the required data concerning their 3 certification flights, and USAF just needs to go over it? Is SpaceX now allowed to do something that they weren't before the announcement?

Offline deruch

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #12 on: 07/13/2014 12:40 am »
Does this mean SpaceX has supplied all the required data concerning their 3 certification flights, and USAF just needs to go over it? Is SpaceX now allowed to do something that they weren't before the announcement?

In order for SpaceX's F9 launch system to get USAF certification they needed to have 3 successful flights.  The USAF is just saying that the 3 flights that SpaceX has flown qualifies as those 3 successful flights.  The process of certification of the F9 isn't done yet though.  But they now know for sure that they won't need additional flights to form the basis of that certification process.  As far as I understand, this doesn't materially change anything for SpaceX.  They are able to compete (i.e. bid) for any launches, but can't yet be awarded contracts until the certification process is completed.
« Last Edit: 07/13/2014 12:42 am by deruch »
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Offline Jcc

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #13 on: 07/13/2014 12:54 am »
Using 3 flights and maximal data review is still likely the fastest route for certification.
That is, considering the current flight rate, it may take nearly 2 years to make 14 acceptable F9 flights.

Offline CriX

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #14 on: 07/13/2014 02:39 am »
In fairness, it would be rash for the government to dismantle a working relationship/ability entirely because there is a lower cost provider.  A long track record of success is a long track record of success, and the US government has the funds to ensure their payloads get to orbit, whether or not bargain prices are available.  SpaceX will slowly get some of this business.... the transition won't be an all-or-nothing, overnight process.

I'm definitely a SpaceX fan but ULA is still awesome.

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #15 on: 07/13/2014 03:00 am »
In fairness, it would be rash for the government to dismantle a working relationship/ability entirely because there is a lower cost provider.

As long as both (or any) service providers can provide the required service, then it makes no difference how long a track record one service provider has or not, the U.S. Government has no need to over pay - it gets no reward for overpaying assuming all the service providers do what is required.

Quote
A long track record of success is a long track record of success...

Again, in the world of service providers where you are providing a fungible service, it shouldn't matter how long one of the service providers has been in business.

Quote
...and the US government has the funds to ensure their payloads get to orbit, whether or not bargain prices are available.

It's obvious the Air Force (i.e. the U.S. Government) disagrees with that stance, because not only have they been complaining about how ULA's frequent & large price increases have been impacting their ability to provide satellite services (the Air Force does not get unlimited funding), but it is the Air Force that opened up the ability for other service providers to compete with ULA.  They want competition to drive down prices.

Quote
SpaceX will slowly get some of this business.... the transition won't be an all-or-nothing, overnight process.

Being a great believer in the benefits of competition, I don't want to see one monopoly provider replaced by another, and neither does the U.S. Government.  There are many examples in history for how the U.S. Government handles situations where one provider is significantly less expensive than another, and it usually involves setting aside a percentage of the total need for secondary competitors - not unlike what the Air Force is doing today in order to make sure that new service providers get a chance to compete.

Quote
I'm definitely a SpaceX fan but ULA is still awesome.

I have a special fondness for Atlas V, but I think Delta IV is a great vehicle too.  I think ULA is a great organization, and is obviously well run from an operational standpoint (and I like their published studies too).  My main criticism has been with how the company is run from a business standpoint, and Boeing and Lockheed Martin are directly to blame for that.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #16 on: 07/13/2014 03:39 am »

As long as both (or any) service providers can provide the required service,

The issue that everybody ignores is that Spacex has not yet provided the required service.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #17 on: 07/13/2014 03:43 am »
As long as both (or any) service providers can provide the required service, then it makes no difference how long a track record one service provider has or not, the U.S. Government has no need to over pay - it gets no reward for overpaying assuming all the service providers do what is required.

I don't know where people keep getting the idea that SpaceX are ready and capable of providing the service the Air Force and the NRO are asking for. If they were, they would have bid on the 2011 procurement - they didn't. Right now they've spent months just trying to launch a few Orbcomm satellites, a contract that was signed in 2009!

Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline CriX

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #18 on: 07/13/2014 04:44 am »
As long as both (or any) service providers can provide the required service, then it makes no difference how long a track record one service provider has or not, the U.S. Government has no need to over pay - it gets no reward for overpaying assuming all the service providers do what is required.

Yes, assuming.  The length of track record is another way of saying "odds of success."

Offline CriX

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Re: SpaceX Release: Air Force Certifies Falcon 9 Flights
« Reply #19 on: 07/13/2014 04:54 am »
I'd like to add that I hope SpaceX wipes the floor with ULA, with regards to cost, enabled through RTLS and full reusability.  I then look forward to Lockheed's response and seeing the competition unfold from there! 

Everyone, including competitors, customers, and spectators alike will be crapping their pants when they see a rockets flying and landing and operating like a commercial airplane and the waves this will create in the industry will be epic.  But it'll take some time before we all believe its really true.  So far so good... I hope we get another little notch of confidence from whatever we see on the next Orbcomm launch.

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