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SpaceX, the commercial rocket venture headed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, is one step closer to being able to compete for Air Force military launch contracts. SpaceX announced Friday that its Falcon 9 launch system has been certified by the Air Force as having conducted three successful flights. That’s one of the prerequisites for companies seeking to win business from the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. SpaceX said it’s on track to satisfy the remaining requirements later this year.

In April, SpaceX filed a lawsuit challenging the Air Force’s long-term, sole-source EELV contract with its main competitor, United Launch Alliance. The Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture is currently the only company certified to launch military payloads for the federal government. Musk says SpaceX can launch military payloads with Falcon 9 more reliably and at a much lower cost than ULA can.

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— James Eng, NBC News