NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) just announced that SpaceX has now been officially certified to send their Falcon 9 rocket on “medium-risk science missions” beginning with the deployment of an oceanography satellite this July. NASA spokesperson George Diller stated that NASA’s Launch Services Program recently completed its multiyear certification thereby green-lighting the Falcon 9 rocket to be used on every NASA mission save the most expensive ones.
SpaceX’s Falcon now has a “Category 2″ rating. It can now be used for both the agency’s interplanetary probes and Earth observation satellites. In order to qualify for NASA flagship missions the Falcon 9 would require a Category 3 certification.
The Falcon 9 certification process started back in 2012. This was when SpaceX scored an $82-million contract for launching what is now known as the “Jason 3” mission. This is a cooperative effort between the US and France with the goal of determining the roughness of the ocean.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX actually first bid to utilize an older version of the Falcon 9 rocket but later chose to go with an upgraded one. That decision created a delay in certification because engineers at SpaceX were then required to redo portions of the prerequisite paperwork including process, engineering and management audits.
The Jason 3 mission is currently slotted to launch on July 22 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will be utilizing a single two-stage Falcon 9 rocket to deploy its 1,124-pound spacecraft into orbit 830 miles above Earth.
After the satellite is in the proper position it will be running a radar altimeter which will actually bounce signals off of the planet’s various oceans in order to establish such specifics as wave height, sea level rise and numerous additional measures needed to forecast the weather and help with research in oceanography and climate change.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Certified For NASA Missions