Panel Completes First Phase of Space Launch Review

An independent panel has completed the first-phase review of the Air Force’s process for certifying California-based SpaceX as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle provider, according to a March 23 Air Force announcement. The panel, led by former Chief of Staff retired Gen. Larry Welch, identified several ways to “better focus” attention on “the new entrant’s ability to deliver qualified hardware, support, and processes to meet requirements,” states the release. As a result, the Air Force and SpaceX will revise the cooperative research and development agreement, signed in June 2013. “We are in full agreement with the review team, and I thank them for their diligent and prompt review of our certification process,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who first announced the review in February during AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. “To remain the best Air Force on the planet, we are firmly committed to bold innovation, competitive space launches, and improved partnership with industry,” she added. During the first phase of the review, conducted between January and March, panelists interviewed “key personnel at the Space and Missile Systems Center and SpaceX,” and also conducted an “examination of certification documents and data, states the release. The second phase will look beyond SpaceX at the Air Force’s overarching new entrant requirements.