Californian launcher developer Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has been granted an initial five-year Cape Canaveral Air Force Station property license by the US Air Force Space Command.

The approval allows SpaceX to operate its two-stage liquid oxygen, kerosene-fuelled Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape's former Titan IV space launch complex (SLC) 40.

The Falcon 9 will lift at least 8,700kg (19,100lb) to low-Earth orbit. Three flights are planned under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration programme. The first is a commercial flight for the US government, scheduled for the latter half of 2008.

The licence means SpaceX has to pay for all the construction work to make the SLC40 Falcon 9 compatible as well as maintenance costs. Space Command can also allow other organisations to use SLC40.

SpaceX has a launch site on the Kwajalein Atoll island of Omelek in the Pacific Ocean, from where  it has had two partially successful Falcon 1 launches.