Elon Musk still winning as the US Air Force is pushing hard to certify Spacex for military launches and a Russian Proton Rocket Explodes

The U.S. Air Force is spending about $60 million and using as many as 100 people to certify billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for launching military and spy satellites, according to the service’s top uniformed acquisition official.

“We’ve got folks busting their butt to get SpaceX certified despite what everything in the media seems to say,” Lieutenant General Charles Davis said in an interview.

Davis said the Air Force is eager to find opportunities for SpaceX in its $67.6 billion launch program as he sought to rebut Musk’s contention that the service is protecting a monopoly for United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA)

Yet another Proton rocket failed 540 seconds into its flight, taking Express-AM4R satellite down with it. This was the second Proton failure since July, and the sixth one in the last few years.

Officials lost contact about nine minutes after the unmanned rocket took off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. About 100 miles high, it veered off path and disintegrated in Earth’s atmosphere. The Express-AM4P European-built satellite, which was destroyed, was reportedly worth $29 million. The rocket was insured for around $225 million.

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