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SpaceX says it has worked out a "path forward" with the U.S. Air Force that will let the California-based company compete for national security space launches. As a result of the agreement, SpaceX is dropping its legal challenge to a military satellite launch contract that the Air Force awarded to United Launch Alliance last year.

SpaceX wasn't able to compete for that contract because its Falcon 9 rocket hadn't yet been certified under the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, or EELV. In a statement issued Friday, the company said the newly reached agreement calls for the Air Force to "work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner."

"The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations," SpaceX said. "Going forward, the Air Force will conduct competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers."

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— Alan Boyle