WASHINGTON -- The Air Force announced March 23, that the phase one results of the independent review panel tasked by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James to review the process for certifying SpaceX as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) provider.
"To ensure we are fully capitalizing on our joint lessons learned, I directed an independent review of our certification process," James said. "Our goal was to assess not only our current processes but also to recommend improvements."
Phase one of the review was accomplished between January and March 2015 and included in-depth discussions with key personnel at the Space and Missile Systems Center and SpaceX, as well as an examination of certification documents and data.
The panel recommended ways that the Air Force's New Entrant Certification Team could better focus the process on the new entrant's ability to deliver qualified hardware, support, and processes to meet requirements. As a result of this review, the Air Force and SpaceX will revise the June 2013Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to immediately adopt these recommendations.
"I appreciate the hard work of the independent review panel," stated Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander. "We look forward to implementing their recommendations immediately and achieving certification as soon as possible. I continue to applaud the hard work by the combined SpaceX and government certification team."
The Air Force and SpaceX have worked closely to identify and plan to close remaining open items. A relatively small amount of work remains, primarily focused on second stage engine and fairing qualification and contamination control. By implementing these changes to the certification process and assuming work progresses as predicted, both parties continue to remain on course to provide certification by June 2015.
"We are in full agreement with the review team, and I thank them for their diligent and prompt review of our certification processes," James said. "To remain the best Air Force on the planet, we are firmly committed to bold innovation, competitive space launches, and improved partnership with industry. I look forward to continuing to work with SpaceX on this final portion of our certification effort."
According to Elon Musk, the CEO and lead designer, "SpaceX welcomes the Air Force's decision to review and revise the process which will govern the certification of new entrants. We share the Air Force's view that the national security of the U.S. will be strengthened by increasing competition in the EELV program."
Retired Gen. Larry Welch, the 12th chief of staff of the Air Force and lead panelist of the independent review team, now moves on to phase two of the review. This phase focuses on a deeper review of the overarching New Entrant Certification process. This review will continue with an eye toward certifying new entrants as efficiently as possible, without sacrificing the laser focus on mission success that has led to the unprecedented record in the EELV program.