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Space Force more receptive to reusable missiles as it continues to review SpaceX missions



SpaceX is scheduled for June 30 for its first attempt to recover the Falcon 9 booster after launching a military satellite.

WASHINGTON – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has so far performed 86 launches, in 47 of which the rocket’s first stage has returned to earth.

While missile landings have become the norm for SpaceX launches, no one has yet been made on a national security mission.

SpaceX is about to make its first attempt to recover the booster after launching a military satellite. The company is slated to launch a Global Positioning System satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 30.

This will be SpaceX’s second GPS launch. The first was in December 2018, but that mission used a expendable rocket with no legs or fins on the grid because the Air Force determined that the vehicle could not perform the required mission trajectory and also bring back the first stage.

The second GPS launch was originally contracted to also use a expendable rocket, but over the past year, those responsible for the launch at the U.S. Space Force and Missile Systems Center have negotiated an agreement with SpaceX to allow the company to recover the booster.

SMC agreed to review some mission requirements so that SpaceX could go back to the booster and in return the company took “several million dollars”

; off the launch price, said Walter Lauderdale, head of the operations division of system operations. Falcon at SMC’s Launch Enterprise. The original contract awarded to SpaceX in 2017 was $ 96.5 million.

Speaking on June 26 during a phone call with reporters, Lauderdale said it took months of reviews and reviews of the Falcon 9 mission data before SMC decided that he could make compromises to allow the repeater to recover and still bring the GPS satellite in the expected position in medium Earth orbit.

Thorough assessments and some modifications to the vehicle from SpaceX “have reduced uncertainty in many areas,” said Lauderdale.

Since launching December 2018, SMC has gained more confidence that a Falcon 9 can meet the needs of the GPS mission and also bring back the first stage, Lauderdale said. “For this launch campaign flow, we completed 362 verification activities and assessed over 230 risks.”

“SpaceX used the experience of our first launch campaign together to improve their processes,” he said. “This led to a 40 percent reduction in the number of questions we asked him” compared to the first GPS mission.

“We evaluated the information from all SpaceX flights to ensure there is no cause for concern about this mission,” said Lauderdale.

But he warned that the decision to allow SpaceX to recover the booster on this mission does not mean that any national security mission will be suitable for reusable missiles.

SpaceX is providing a new booster for this launch. There are currently no plans to use a previously piloted booster in any future GPS launch. SpaceX is under contract to fly three more GPS missions in the next two years.

“I can’t commit to when we’re ready” to allow SpaceX to launch a national security satellite using a previously piloted booster, Lauderdale said. “Part of that trip is becoming familiar with the way SpaceX is doing its job.”

SMC in May awarded SpaceX a $ 8.9 million “fleet surveillance” contract that allows government engineers to monitor how SpaceX recovers and renews used boosters.

In the coming weeks DoD will select two launch service providers for the National Security Space launch Phase 2 launch service. Two of the bidders – SpaceX and Blue Origin – will offer reusable launch systems.

“In phase 2, we allow suppliers to offer previously piloted systems,” said Lauderdale. “We are open to anything that the industry wants to make available to us.”


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