Spacex close to certification for military launches

Spacex is close to winning the certification it needs to begin launching satellites for the U.S. military, according to an Air Force official. If Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, receives the approval by Dec. 31 it will qualify to be awarded a contract valued at as much as $200 million in competition with United Launch Alliance LLC, the joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA) that has been the military’s sole launch provider.

“They will eventually be certified,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, the service’s top military acquisition officer, said of SpaceX in an interview, although she declined to predict whether approval will come in time for the contract this month to launch a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. “I’m pretty optimistic.”

The Air Force has set aside seven launches through 2017, including the one this month, Captain Chris Hoyler, a spokesman for the service, said in an e-mail. House and Senate negotiators added $125 million for an additional competitive launch in the the $554.2 billion defense spending bill for the current fiscal year that awaits final passage in Congress.