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SpaceX cleared for US military launches

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WASHINGTON (AFP): The US Air Force has certified private company SpaceX to launch military satellites, opening the doors to a lucrative market previously held solely by a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture.

With the clearance SpaceX can compete for military space contracts valued by US authorities at USD 9.5 billion over the next five years.

As soon as June SpaceX could bid for the military's new GPS satellite launches, the Air Force said.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the certification was a "very important milestone" for the Defence Department, allowing competition for launches for the first time in a decade.

Founded in 2002, SpaceX is controlled by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. The company has grown rapidly to become a leader in commercial space launches and for US space agency NASA.

SpaceX has made numerous cargo flights to resupply the International Space Station and is preparing for a manned flight.

SpaceX competes with France-based Arianespace, which complains of not having access to US government contracts.

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