Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 certified for NASA’s most critical scientific missions

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket has been certified by NASA for Category 3 status. Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has been certified by NASA for Category 3 status. Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket continues to shine in the eyes of the public, fans and those who have payloads that they need sent to orbit. NASA has now deemed the rocket worthy to carry some of its most important missions.

On Nov. 8, 2018, SpaceX announced that the U.S. space agency’s Launch Services Program (LSP) certified the rocket as a Category 3 launch vehicle. What does this mean? 

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is now in a rather exclusive club. The rocket can now be used to send NASA’s most expensive and most complex scientific missions on the first leg of their destinations.

“LSP Category 3 certification is a major achievement for the Falcon 9 team and represents another key milestone in our close partnership with NASA,” SpaceX’s President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said via a company-issued release. “We are honored to have the opportunity to provide cost-effective and reliable launch services to the country’s most critical scientific payloads.”

With most payloads that voyage into the black of space costing millions of dollars, ensuring the vehicle that pushes them out of Earth’s gravity is up to the challenge is critical.

With only one mission out of 61 flights of the Falcon 9 ending in failure, the rocket appears to have met the high standards NASA demands from all of the rockets it uses. Two of those successful missions include other flights under the LSP: Jason-3 and TESS.

With the addition of this latest notch on its belt, SpaceX is poised to conduct the most sensitive, in terms of cargo, flights that the agency has—those of astronauts to the International Space Station.

 “Safety for our personnel was the driver for this analysis, and the team’s assessment was that this plan presents the least risk,” Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program said earlier this year.

The first uncrewed test flight of the duo of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft is currently scheduled to take place no earlier than January 2019.




Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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