U.S. Markets closed

US Air Force leader eyes SpaceX launch certification by June

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force hopes to certify privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to launch some U.S. military and intelligence satellites into space using its Falcon 9 rocket by June, a top official told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I think we're still looking at ... June," Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, the top uniformed officer in charge of Air Force acquisition, told Reuters after a speech at the annual Women in Defense conference.

Pawlikowski, nominated by President Barack Obama to head Air Force Materiel Command, said she was disappointed the Air Force had not been able to certify SpaceX for the launches by December, as initially hoped, but said she was "encouraged that we're close."

The general said allowing SpaceX to enter a market dominated by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of the two top Pentagon suppliers, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co , would let the Air Force leverage the commercial market and help reduce the cost of launching satellites into space.

Pawlikowski, who trimmed the cost of satellite programs by $3 billion during her tenure as the head of Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center, welcomed a variety of initiatives under way across the Pentagon to benefit from investment by commercial firms like SpaceX.

She cited some lingering institutional resistance to change, but said the Air Force was working more closely with industry to understand how simple adjustments in requirements for weapons systems could lower costs and free up resources for other work.

She said one key step was empowering acquisition officials to look at innovative products and solutions instead of turning to the same suppliers and products that had always been used.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)