SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne. Photo by John Schreiber.
SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne. Photo by John Schreiber.

Hawthorne-based SpaceX is now certified to launch military satellites, ending a long-held monopoly by the Boeing and Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance.

The U.S. Air Force announced the certification on Tuesday. SpaceX is expected to bid on a contract for the launch of the government’s next generation GPS satellites as early as June.

“This is a very important milestone for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “SpaceX’s emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade.

“Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military’s resiliency.”

Certification follows a two-year evaluation by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo that cost $60 million and involved 150 people.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket can now compete with United Launch Alliance’s Atlas and Delta vehicles. The Atlas has come under Congressional criticism because it’s main engines are made by a Russian company.

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