The Falcon 9 is now certified by NASA as a “Category 2” launch vehicle. SpaceX has successfully launched six re-supply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the NASA contract.
NASA and SpaceX began pursuing the certification of the Falcon 9 in 2012. SpaceX won an $82 million contract to launch the Jason 3 mission — a project jointly funded by the US and France to measure sea roughness.
The Jason 3 mission is scheduled for lift-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in July. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the 1,124 pound spacecraft into orbit 830 miles above the Earth.
The satellite will then activate a radar altimeter to bounce signals off the world’s oceans to measure wave height, sea level rise and other data that are important for weather forecasting, oceanography and climate change research.
“The certification now clears the Falcon 9 to launch what NASA calls ‘medium-risk’ science missions, a classification that includes most of the agency’s Earth observation satellites and many of its interplanetary probes,” said NASA spokesperson George Diller in a statement.
The launch will be the Falcon 9’s second flight. The first launch of Falcon 9 from California was in September, 2013.