Launcher developer Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is expecting a decision from the US Air Force about its possible use of Cape Canaveral, Florida as a launch site before the end of this month. The Cape launch complex would be used for commercial flights of the company's heavylift Falcon 9, designed to place 8,700kg (19,100lb) in low-Earth orbit.

The planned Falcon 9 will be used for three demonstration flights under SpaceX's involvement in NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services programme.

"We've been told the USAF decision will be [this month]," says SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk.

The company has six flights booked for the Falcon 9 from next year to 2010, with the first, carrying a US government payload, expected in 2008.

Commercial launches will either be from the Cape or SpaceX's current launch site on the Kwajalein Atoll island of Omelek in the Pacific Ocean. The company has applied for environmental approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration for both the Cape and Omelek launches of the Falcon 9.

Source: Flight International