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ULA Launches NRO Satellite

ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)

ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 10, 2016 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6  on Feb. 10 at 3:40 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-45, the mission is in support of national defense.

This is ULA’s second launch in 2016 and the 105th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

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Proposed USAF FY Budget Includes Funding for Next Generation Rocket

Artist's conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

The U.S. Air Force’s proposed FY 2017 budget includes $296.6 million for the development of new launch vehicle technology designed to wean the nation off dependence on Russian-built rocket engines.

The proposed spending is part of an effort that would see the Air Force spending $1.2 billion through FY 2021. Developing the new engine technology has become a priority as relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) depends on the Russian-built RD-180 engine on the first stage of its workhorse Atlas V booster, which is heavily used by the U.S. Air Force to launch defense satellites.

ULA is currently working with Blue Origin to develop a successor for the Atlas V called Vulcan. The new booster would use a Blue Origin BE-4 engine in its first stage. Several companies are competing to provide the second stage engine.

Budget documents also indicate the Air Force plans to procure five launch vehicles in FY 2017, including three competitive awards. ULA and SpaceX are certified to compete for defense launches.

Spaceflight Awarded First GSA Schedule Contract for Satellite Launch Services


spaceflight_logoU.S. government agencies can now easily order CubeSat or MicroSat launches online, complete with pre-approved launch prices and a streamlined process

SEATTLE – February 10, 2016 – Spaceflight, the company reinventing the model for launching satellites into space, today announced it is the first launch services provider to be awarded the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Professional Services Schedule (00CORP). As a recipient of the contract, Spaceflight provides its services to federal agencies at a pre-negotiated fixed rate, enabling them to quickly and easily secure small satellite launch contracts completely online. This in turn reduces administrative costs and overhead and potentially increases how frequently the agencies access space.

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NASA Budget Reactions


CSF_logo2Some reactions to NASA’s $19 billion FY 2017 budget request from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Washington D.C. – Today the Obama administration submitted its FY2017 budget request to Congress. The request includes proposed funding and guidance for all NASA programs and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).

“I commend the Administration for a budget that provides robust funding for NASA and FAA AST,” said CSF president Eric Stallmer. “We applaud the proposals that would enable and utilize private space capabilities to help build a sustainable American expansion into the Solar System from the edge of space through low-Earth orbit to the Moon and beyond. It builds on the strong foundation established by the FY16 Omnibus and Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. We look forward to working with the Congress to fully fund a number of the proposals in this request, while also championing efforts to shore up areas that need additional input and support.”

Within the NASA portfolio, the request continues the bipartisan commitment to the United States achieving safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil by 2017. The request provides funding for NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo programs to ensure that the nation has multiple U.S.-based transportation capabilities to and from the ISS, ending NASA’s dependence on Russia, and expanding ISS scientific research and technology development activities through 2024. The request includes funds for the development of a deep space habitat, which should utilize a public-private partnership to ensure NASA meets the Congressionally mandated 2018 deadline for development of a prototype habitation module. Finally, the request includes $15 million for the Flight Opportunities program to enable affordable testing of new technologies necessary for future exploration plans, and provides critical training opportunities needed to sustain a skilled workforce.

The budget request includes $19.8 million, an increase of $2 million over FY16, for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, to ensure that it has the resources necessary to process and approve commercial space launch and reentry licenses, experimental permits, and spaceport licenses in a timely manner, which will help reduce the possibility of delayed launches, slowed innovation, and a diminution in the United States competitive edge. In addition, the request includes $3 million for Commercial Space Transportation Safety to better integrate commercial launch and reentry “traffic” with the National Airspace System.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration notes the release of the Administration’s FY 2017 NASA budget request. The Coalition had hoped the request would reflect the priorities laid out for NASA in the FY16 Omnibus, for which there was broad support. Unfortunately this was not the case. The Coalition is disappointed with the proposed reduction in funding below the FY16 Omnibus for NASA’s exploration programs.

Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, the executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, issued the following statement:

“While we appreciate the funding proposed for the International Space Station and its transportation systems, space science programs including the James Webb Space Telescope, and proposed deep space habitat, we are deeply concerned about the Administration’s proposed cut to NASA’s human exploration development programs. This proposed budget falls well short of the investment needed to support NASA’s exploration missions, and would have detrimental impacts on cornerstone, game-changing programs such as the super-heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion spacecraft – the first spacecraft designed to reach multiple destinations in the human exploration of deep space.

The greatest challenge to these programs is not technical, but budget stability, plain and simple. At this critical stage, it is important to ensure that the significant progress already made on the development of the SLS and Orion spacecraft continues, so as to meet important milestones including the first integrated launch in 2018 and crewed missions beginning in 2021. Fully developing these systems will enable the United States to realize its aspirations for human exploration, planetary missions, international collaboration, and scientific discovery.

Year after year, Congress, with bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate, has led the way in ensuring these important exploration capabilities remain on track, including in the recently-enacted FY 2016 Omnibus. Once again, we look to bipartisan efforts in the Congress to ensure that these programs receive the funding necessary to continue progress, enabling the nation’s return to deep space and ensuring America’s role as the global leader in human space exploration.”

Tyvak Selected to Support ULA Atlas V CubeSat Initiative

Atlas V launch of GPS IIF-12 (Credit: ULA)

Atlas V launch of GPS IIF-12 (Credit: ULA)

Irvine, CA (February 9, 2016) – Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of Terran Orbital Corporation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to serve as the primary Auxiliary Payload Customer on CubeSat Rideshare Initiative efforts through December 31, 2019.

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NASA FY 2017 Budget Request Fact Sheet


NASA LOGOThe President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget
Carries out an ambitious deep space exploration program
and continues the Nation’s Journey to Mars.

Actuals FY 2015: $18 billion
Enacted FY 2016:  $19.3 billion
Requested FY 2017:  $19 billion

NASA’s budget advances the Nation’s space exploration plan and ensures our nation remains the world’s leader in space exploration and technology, aeronautics research and discovery in space and Earth science. The budget supports developing the technologies that will make future space missions more capable and affordable, partnering with the private sector to transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station, continuing the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will one day send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. The budget also keeps the Webb Telescope on track for a 2018; builds on our scientific discoveries and achievements in space; and supports the Administration’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry.

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Lamar Smith on Obama’s Budget: I HATE It!

Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

“This administration cannot continue to tout plans to send astronauts to Mars while strangling the programs that will take us there. President Obama’s FY17 budget proposal shrinks our deep space exploration programs by more than $800 million. And the administration once more proposes cuts of more than $100 million to the Planetary Science accounts, which have previously funded missions like this past year’s Pluto flyby. At the same time this proposal shrinks space exploration priorities within NASA’s budget, it disproportionately increases Earth Science accounts to more than $2 billion – a seventy percent increase since 2007. This imbalanced proposal continues to tie our astronauts’ feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible. This is not the proposal of an administration that is serious about maintaining America’s leadership in space.”

— Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Chairman, House Committee on Science, Space & Technology

Smith’s statement is reproduced in full after the link.
Continue reading ‘Lamar Smith on Obama’s Budget: I HATE It!’

Proposed NASA Budget for FY 2017


NASA FY 2017 Budget Overview

FAA Releases Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation


faa_compendium_2016The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016

Executive Summary

The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.

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International Asteroid Day Set for June 30

ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA -

ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA –

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands, 9 February 2016 (ESA PR) — Asteroid Day, a global movement to increase knowledge and awareness of asteroids, announced its plans for 2016 from a press conference hosted at ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands and livestreamed around the world.

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Video: Stephen Colbert Tosses the Football Around


Stephen Colbert throws the football to some famous space travelers, among others.

NASA to Unveil FY 2017 Budget Proposal on Tuesday

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA centers across the country are opening their doors Tuesday, Feb. 9 to media and social media for “State of NASA” events, including a speech from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and unique opportunities for a behind-the-scenes look at the agency’s progress on its journey to Mars. These events follow President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal delivery to the U.S. Congress.

Events at NASA centers will include media tours and presentations on the innovative technologies developed and under development, as well as the scientific discoveries made as NASA explores and studies our changing Earth and our universe, and continues to make advancements in green, next-generation air travel.

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Delta IV, Falcon 9 Launches Set


NROL45_MissionArtNight owls and insomniacs in California will be able to witness a spectacular night launch on Wednesday morning.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV is set to lift off at 3:39 a.m. PST (6:39 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-45. If there are clear skies, the launch will be visible for hundreds of miles.

ULA will webcast the launch at

SpaceX is planning to be back in action two weeks later with a planned Feb. 24 launch of its upgraded Falcon 9 booster. The rocket will carry SES-9 communications satellite for SES S.A. of Luxembourg. SpaceX will conduct the launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“In order to minimise the impact of moving the launch from late last year, SpaceX is supporting a mission modification,” SES said in a press release. “The changed mission will reduce the time needed for SES-9 to reach its orbital slot, keeping the Operational Service Date (OSD) in the third quarter of 2016, as previously foreseen….

“SES-9 will use a chemical bi-propellant apogee motor to quickly achieve a 24h synchronous orbit and then electric propulsion to circularise the final orbit and to remove eccentricity at 36,000 kilometers over the equator,” the company added. “Subsequent on-orbit manoeuvres will be executed with electric propulsion.”

This Week on The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, Feb. 8, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST; 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. ERIK SEEDHOUSE to discuss his new book on the Dragon capsule.

2. Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016,7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. JOHN BRANDENBURG for Part 2 of his Space Show program trilogy.

3. Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, 2016; 9:30-11AM PST; (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30AM – 1 PM CST. We welcome back ANATOLY ZAK and for the first time DEBRA WERNER to discuss their Oct. 2015 article in Aerospace America on astronaut safety. The article is available online at

4. Sunday, Feb. 14., 2016: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. MARK BRODWIN to discuss galaxies, galaxy formation, and new galaxy discoveries. Dr. Brodwin was a recent Hotel Mars guest on these subjects.

ICESat-2 to Use Unique 3D Printed Parts

This image shows the ATLAS instrument inside a Goddard cleanroom where the instrument was assembled. (Credits: NASA/D. McCallum)

This image shows the ATLAS instrument inside a Goddard cleanroom where the instrument was assembled. (Credits: NASA/D. McCallum)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s follow-on to the successful ICESat mission will employ a never-before-flown technique for determining the topography of ice sheets and the thickness of sea ice, but that won’t be the only first for this mission.

Slated for launch in 2018, NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) also will carry a 3-D printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), a material that has never been used in 3-D manufacturing, let alone flown in space.

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