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The U.S. Air Force has ruled that the first Falcon 9 v1.1 flight conducted last fall does count as one of three required for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to be certified to compete for boosting U.S national security payloads into orbit, as the upstart company works to take on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) monopoly.

Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile systems Center, determined that the Sept. 29 launch would support certification despite a malfunction in an attempted upper-stage engine restart. Her decision was announced Feb. 24.

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