The Space and Missile Systems Center has announced the publication of a guide that will allow commercial launch providers to compete for future launch service opportunities. Formally called the United States Air Force Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide, the document lays out the approach the Air Force will use to certify commercial launch companies to provide launch services for Department of Defense National Security Space missions. "The Air Force is committed to facilitating opportunities for multiple domestic EELV-class launch providers as soon as feasible," said Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, SMC Commander. "This guide provides a clear path to certification for new U.S. commercial space transportation capabilities that demonstrate the ability to reliably launch our nation's one-of-a-kind national security satellites."
Release of the Air Force certification guide follows the recent approval of the New Entrant Certification Strategy co-signed by the U.S. Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Although the strategy framework is common to the three agencies, each agency determines its own mission-unique requirements. The Air Force developed the New Entrant Certification Guide to implement its unique requirements. The certification guide applies a risk-based certification framework that allows the Air Force to balance both the cost and mission of the payload and the Air Force's confidence in the launch vehicle. The Air Force is seeking to identify risk tolerant missions that could be made available for new entrants as a pathway to certification to compete for EELV class missions. SMC will hold an industry day in the near future to discuss the certification guide with prospective new entrants.