Trump Administration Objects to Defense Bill Provisions on Space Corps, EELV Development


The Trump Administration and the House Armed Services Committee are on a collision course over four space- and rocket-related provisions in the fNational Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018).

Specifically, the administration is objecting to the following provisions:

  • the establishment of a separate space corps within the U.S. Air Force (USAF);
  • limitations on the funding of new rocket engines for the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program;
  • a prohibition on the Pentagon procurement of transponder services on commercial satellites launched on Russian rockets; and,
  • requirements that the Defense Department find multiple suppliers for individual components of solid rocket missile systems.

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SpaceX on a Rapid Launch Cadence for 2017

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft on board, (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX’s successful launch of the Intelsat 35e communications satellite on Wednesday was the company’s third launch in 12 days and its 10th successful launch of 2017, the most the company has ever launched during any calendar year.

Just past the mid-point of the year, SpaceX has launched more times than any other company or nation in 2017. The company’s flights account for just under short of one-quarter of the 44 launch attempts this year.

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ULA’s USAF Launch Contract Worth $191 Million

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Air Force announced today the award of the third competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch service after more than a decade of sole-sourced contracts. United Launch Alliance was awarded a contract for Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) Launch Service. This is a firm-fixed price, standalone contract with a value of $191,141,581.

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ULA Wins USAF Launch Contract

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET. (Credit: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (ULA PR) – The United States Air Force announced today that United Launch Alliance (ULA) was awarded a contract to launch the Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission. This contract resulted from a competitive award under the Air Force’s Phase 1A procurement strategy.

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Mid-Year Launch Report: U.S. (& SpaceX) in the Lead

Screenshot of SpaceX Falcon 9 Bulgaria 1 satellite launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

We are now halfway through 2017, so it seems like a good time to take a look at the year in orbital launches.

ORBITAL LAUNCHES THROUGH JUNE 2017
NATIONSUCCESSES
FAILURES
PARTIAL FAILURESTOTAL
United States130013
Russia8008
China6017
Europe5005
India4004
Japan3104
New Zealand0101
TOTAL392142

A total of 42 launches have been conducted thus far, with 39 successes, two failures and one partial failure. The two failures were inaugural flight tests of new boosters.

American companies have launched 13 times. Nine of those flights have been conducted by SpaceX, giving the company more launches than anyone else thus far. United Launch Alliance successfully three three Atlas V boosters and one Delta IV rocket.

Russia has conducted eight launches. Included in the total are two Russian Soyuz flights conducted from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.

China is close behind with seven launches. Six flights were successful, but a Long March 3B booster suffered a partial failure earlier this month that left a spacecraft in a lower-than-planned orbit.

LAUNCHES BY VEHICLE THROUGH JUNE 2017
LAUNCH VEHICLENATIONSUCCESSES
FAILURES
PARTIAL FAILURESTOTAL
 Falcon 9United States9009
 Soyuz 2Russia6006
 Ariane 5 Europe4004
 Atlas VUnited States 300 3
 H-IIAJapan3003
 Long March 3BChina2013
 PSLVIndia2002
 Delta IV United States1 001
 GSLV Mk II India 1 001
 GSLV Mk III India 1 001
KT-2 China 1 001
 Kuaizhou 1 China 1 001
 Long March 2D China 1 001
 Long March 7 China 1 001
 Proton Russia 1 001
 Soyuz-2.1vRussia 1 001
 VegaEurope 1001
 Electron New Zealand0101
 S-520-4 Japan010 1
TOTAL392142

Europe follows with five successful launches, including four using the Ariane 5 booster and one using the Vega launcher.

India launched four times, with the highlight being the successful first orbital test of the new GSLV Mk. III booster. The launch vehicle — the nation’s most powerful to date — had been previously tested during a suborbital flight without an upper stage.

Japan also launched four times with three successes. The maiden flight test of Japan’s new SS-520-4 nanosat launcher failed in January, destroying some CubeSats.

New Zealand made the orbital launch list for the first time this year. The maiden flight test of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster failed to orbit an inert mass. Rocket Lab is a U.S.-New Zealand company.

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Russian Rocket Engines Exempted from Sanctions Bill

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.

The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch X-37B Space Plane

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

Reuters reports that SpaceX will launch the U.S. Air Force’s  X-37B space plane in August.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson made the announcement during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the news service reports.

Four previous X-37B missions have been launched aboard ULA’s Atlas V boosters.

The U.S. Air Force has two X-37B spacecraft, which are used to test new technologies on orbit. One vehicle landed in Florida on May 7 after spending a record 718 days in space.

Tiny Probes Hold Big Promise for Future NASA Missions

This picture shows the entry probe and the metal outer shell. The metal shell allows the probe to be connected with the supply ship and also facilitates the probe to be released during break-up of the supply spacecraft during reentry. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Sometimes to find the best solution to a big problem, you have to start small.

A team of NASA engineers has been working on a new type of Thermal Protection System (TPS) for spacecraft that would improve upon the status quo.

Having seen success in the laboratory with these new materials, the next step is to test in space.

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Video: Atlas V Launches Cygnus to Space Station

Video Caption: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Liftoff was at 11:11 a.m. EDT. The Orbital ATK CRS-7 Cygnus spacecraft on a commercial resupply services mission to deliver 7,600 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.

U.S. National Lab Research Payloads Headed for ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (CASIS PR) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle launched on its seventh cargo resupply mission (CRS-7) to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 18 aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V vehicle, carrying more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored investigations.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is chartered to facilitate research in the microgravity environment that benefits life on Earth. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is leading the effort in partnership with NASA, industry, other government organizations, and academia to manage and promote the best use of the ISS National Lab.

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Cygnus Packed with Experiments to Support Future Exploration

On Feb. 7, 2017, in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, technicians and engineers load thousands of pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific research materials aboard a Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized cargo module for the Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill White)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The International Space Station serves as the world’s leading orbital laboratory where crews conduct cutting-edge research and technology development. A crucial resupply line of spacecraft keeps work going that will enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

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Atlas V Set for Liftoff on Tuesday Morning

Atlas V booster (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the OA-7 Cygnus spacecraft for Orbital ATK and NASA.

The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Tuesday, April 18 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The April 18 launch window is 11:11-11:41 a.m. EDT.  Live programming will begin at 10 a.m. EDT; webcast available at www.ulalaunch.com

Today’s L-2 forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Launch Forecast Summary:

  • Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 10%
  • Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds
  • Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 20%
  • Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds and Thick Clouds

ULA Slashes Atlas V Price

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET. (Credit: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin)

ULA has cut the price of its least expensive launch vehicle, the Atlas V, by more than one third.

“We’re seeing that price is even more important than it had been in the past,” Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, or ULA, said during an interview at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

“We’re dropping the cost of Atlas almost every day. Atlas is now down more than a third in its cost,” Bruno said.

As of December 2016, a baseline Atlas 5 rocket launch was selling for about $109 million, though satellite operators can make up at least half that cost by getting more favorable insurance rates and other factors, including an on-time launch, ULA has said.

In contrast, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, lists the base price of a Falcon 9 rocket launch on its website at $62 million.

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ULA Leaning Toward BE-4 Engine for Vulcan as Crucial Engine Tests Loom

BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)

In what is likely a surprise to no one, United Launch Alliance’s CEO said this week the company is leaning toward selecting Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine in the first stage of its new Vulcan rocket — providing upcoming engine tests go well.

That would leave rival Aerojet Rocketdyne and its AR1 engine without a booster to fly on.

In an interview during the 33rd Space Symposium here, Tory Bruno said that tests of the BE-4 engine, scheduled to begin “very soon” at Blue Origin’s test site in West Texas, are the last major hurdle the engine must clear before ULA decides to use it on Vulcan.
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ULA Lays off 48 Employees at Vandenberg

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) plans to lay off 48 employees that work for its operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ULA launches Atlas V and Delta IV rockets from the coastal base.

“United Launch Alliance continues to transform our company to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers, while we maintain our focus on mission success,” spokeswoman Jessica Rye said in a written statement.

“As we announced last year, ULA would have two reductions in force, one in 2016, which was completed, and one in 2017 to accomplish our business goals. We hope to accomplish the majority of the 2017 reductions through voluntary layoffs….

The jobs will end June 1, according to the letter, and include both union and non-union employees. Layoffs are expected to be permanent.

Affected employees currently hold assorted jobs, including technicians and engineers.

Read the full story.