SpaceX’s reusable Falcon Heavy rocket can now carry US spy satellites into orbit

SpaceX could soon take on some of the US government’s top priority satellite missions. Bloomberg reports that the Space Force has certified SpaceX to launch top-secret spy satellites using Falcon Heavy rockets equipped with reusable boosters. The move, of course, gives SpaceX more high-profile government missions, but it also promises to save federal money by reducing the cost of getting those satellites into orbit. The Space Force has already saved over $64 million on GPS missions by using reusable Falcon 9 rockets, said Space Systems Command Falcon chief Walter Lauderdale.

The Space Force issued the certification in June but has not yet disclosed the approval. SpaceX can carry spy satellites aboard Falcon 9 rockets, but they don’t always have the power needed for heavier payloads. The first Falcon Heavy-based launch is expected between October and December, when SpaceX will deliver a National Reconnaissance Office satellite.

This could deal a significant, albeit temporary, blow to competing missile makers. The Boeing-Lockheed-Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance has still not received similar approval for a version of its Vulcan rocket powered by Blue Origin engines. Air Force officials are still reviewing the approach for 39 national security launches planned for fiscal years 2025-2027. SpaceX is not guaranteed to win any contracts that would otherwise go to ULA, but its past certification could influence any decisions.

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