With just over 24 hr. to go, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) founder Elon Musk says the company’s new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket is ready to launch its first commercial payload to supersynchronous transfer orbit Nov. 25 from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.

A successful launch of the SES-8 commercial communications satellite could help SpaceX unseat United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin joint venture whose Atlas V and Delta IV rockets hold a virtual monopoly on launching Pentagon, NASA and intelligence community payloads.

“We’re hoping to provide a forcing function for increased competitiveness in the launch vehicle industry and potentially for improving the technology across the board,” Musk stated in a pre-launch conference call with reporters Nov. 24, adding that SpaceX competitors will have to quickly catch up or risk losing “significant market share” to the Falcon 9.

“They are now going to need to improve their rocket technology in order to compete, and that’s a good thing for the future of space,” Musk says.

The launch window for the Nov. 25 mission opens at 5:37 p.m. EST, when the Falcon 9 v1.1 is expected to carry the Orbital Sciences Corp.-built SES-8 satellite to supersynchronous transfer orbit for Luxembourg-based SES, the world’s second largest commercial fleet operator by revenue. A supersynchronous orbit is one where the apogee is significantly greater than geosynchronous altitude.

“To have the increased apogee altitude allows us to optimize the fuel usage on the satellite and to maximize our on-orbit station-keeping fuel lifetime for the remainder of the mission,” says SES Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell. “We’ve done it many, many times before.”

Accurate orbital insertion of SES-8 is critical to SpaceX, which is counting on three successful Falcon 9 v1.1 missions -- including two to be launched consecutively – in order to obtain U.S. government certification to launch sensitive national security payloads.

A Sept. 29 debut of the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket from the company’s new launch site at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., successfully lofted an experimental Canadian science satellite to low Earth orbit. However, frozen igniter fluid lines were to blame for the failure of an upper-stage restart of the new Merlin 1D vacuum engine during the first Falcon 9 v1.1 launch.

According to SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin, the company did not detect the fluid line problem during ground tests because “ambient air kept the lines warm.” It is unclear whether thermal testing was conducted. “We’ve added insulation and made sure that cold oxygen can’t impinge on the lines” in future missions, she says.

The failure was the result of a “pretty straightforward error,” according to Barry Matsumori, vice president of commercial sales and business development. He spoke Nov. 14 at Aviation Week’s A&D Programs conference in Phoenix. The additional insulation did not require requalification work, he says.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell says the Sept. 29 mission still counts as the first of three required for U.S. Air Force certification. The Air Force, however, has not confirmed this and officials there say they are continuing to analyze data from the mission to determine its eligibility.

SES-8 will be followed closely by another Falcon 9 v1.1 launch to a supersynchronous transfer orbit, this time for a Bangkok-based fleet operator Thaicom.

Musk says for SES-8, SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9 v1.1’s first stage booster, as was the case during the Sept. 29 launch.

“On this mission we actually are sacrificing the ability to recover the first stage to maximize the performance margin for the SES satellite,” he says. Halliwell says the company has worked closely with SpaceX to ensure the success of the SES-8 launch.

“The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game changer and it’s going to shake the industry to its roots,” Halliwell says. The fact that SpaceX can be so cost competitive to give us the same level of performance as other launch vehicle providers is important to us. All the other launch vehicle providers are looking with great interest at this launch.”

Halliwell says SES, which has booked three future satellite launches on SpaceX rockets, values the extremely close relationship the two companies have forged. “We invest a lot in our spacecraft,” Halliwell says. “To have that close relationship with our launch service providers is extremely important. We’ve managed to develop that with SpaceX, to a greater extent than our existing launch service providers.”

With a dozen launches on its manifest next year, Shotwell says the company will be looking for new launch sites and investing heavily in production capability. She says SpaceX is currently producing one vehicle per month, but that number is expected to increase to “18 per year in the next couple of quarters.” By the end of 2014, she says SpaceX will produce 24 launch vehicles per year.