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SpaceX certified for military satellite launches

SpaceX is now certified to launch military and spy satellites, Reuters reports. By certifying SpaceX, the US Air Force has effectively ended the monopoly held by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture by Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The news, which broke out yesterday, comes after two years of negotiations between the US Air Force and SpaceX. From now on, Elon Musk’s company 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.

After the negotiations, the biggest winner is the US Air Force and the American taxpayer. Ending monopoly means lowering costs and, as James said, improves US military’s resiliency.

“Ultimately, leverage of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military’s resiliency,” added James in her statement.

As Bloomberg writes in a report, the difference is around $60 million (£39m). SpaceX plans to launch government satellites for less than $100 million (£64m) per Falcon 9 mission, while United Launch Alliance charges $160 million (£103m) or more for the comparably sized Atlas V spacecraft.

Musk called the decision "an important step toward bringing competition to national security space launch."

“We welcome today’s announcement and look forward to competing with SpaceX and other new entrants,” the alliance, based in Centennial, Colorado, said in a statement. “We could not be more passionate and proud of our work, our people and our record of success.”