26th February 2024 10:09 am
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SpaceX officially certified to fly Nasa science missions

South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space business has in the last couple of years taken off like… well, a rocket. Aiming to be one of the biggest privately-owned space companies, it has done rather well for itself.

Besides Google pumping $1 billion into SpaceX earlier this year, the company’s Falcon 9 rocket officially got certified to launch most of Nasa’s science missions.

Since the certification is Category 2, the only missions that Falcon 9 will not be allowed to lift is the sensitive robotic missions, for which Nasa requires a Category 3 certification.

The only companies who hold a Category 3 certification is SpaceX rivals United Launch Alliance and Orbital ATK’s Atlas 5, Delta 2 and Pegasus XL rockets.

“The milestone clears the Falcon 9 rocket to launch Nasa’s ‘medium-risk’ science missions, a classification which includes most of the agency’s Earth observation satellites and many interplanetary probes,” wrote Space Flight Now.

The certification falls under Nasa’s Launch Services Program, which is in charge of rocket allocation for future research missions.

According to the publication, SpaceX started the process of certification as far back as 2012. At the time SpaceX had just won a $82 million contract to launch Nasa’s Jason 3 mission.

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