by Lt. Col. Joseph Imwalle
1st Air and Space Test Squadron commander
6/14/2013 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Space
Exploration Technologies Corporation and the U.S. Air Force reached an
agreement June 7 that will allow the company to compete for national
security space payload contracts after it completes a certification
process that will be led, at Vandenberg, by the 1st Air and Space Test
"I'm proud of the 1 ASTS team for the role they played in pioneering
this new process," said Col. Shahnaz Punjani, 30th Launch Group
commander. "They helped design the roadmap to certification, and I'm
confident that, as they lead related activities here at Vandenberg,
they'll continue to represent Air Force space launch trailblazing at its
While the official agreement signing ceremony was held at SpaceX
headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., the 1 ASTS and Vandenberg SpaceX team
held a local event at Space Launch Complex 4 to mark the start of the
The SLC-4 ceremony included remarks by 1 ASTS commander Lt. Col. Joseph
Imwalle and 1st Lt. Jonathan Denton, 1 ASTS certification mission
manager, and a tour of the new 1 ASTS administrative office in Building
The inaugural SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket is scheduled to launch this
year from Vandenberg. 1 ASTS will lead all launch site certification
activities at the base under the authority of the Space and Missile
"This is an exciting time to be in the launch business," Denton said.
"Commercial launch service providers like SpaceX promise to invigorate
U.S. spacelift operations. This influx of fresh talent and enthusiasm
should challenge the status quo and unleash greater potential for
assured access to space."
The squadron will evaluate SpaceX launch systems, processes and
procedures with technical oversight and approval by the 30 LCG Technical
Director, Tom Stevens. Locally, SpaceX and 1 ASTS have been interacting
during SpaceX launch site activation work for months in anticipation of
the formal agreement being signed.
The end result of this Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle New Entrant
certification process will be a formal flight worthiness determination
by the SMC commander as to the capability of SpaceX to successfully
launch EELV-class missions using the Falcon 9 v1.1.
Once certified, SpaceX will be permitted to compete for EELV launches
and potentially help drive down the cost of space lift for the
Department of Defense.