U.S. Air Force Awards Launch Contracts to SpaceX, ULA

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

The U.S. Air Force has announced the awarding of launch contracts to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and rival United Launch Alliance. SpaceX’s firm-fixed-price contract totals $290,594,130 while ULA was awarded a firm-fixed-price contract worth $354,811,947.

“This contract provides launch vehicle production, mission integration/launch operations/spaceflight worthiness and mission unique activities for a GPS III mission, with options for two additional GPS III launch services,” the Air Force said about the SpaceX contract.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the press statement said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement funding in the amount of $96,937,905 will be obligated at the time of award.”

ULA’s contract is for the launch of the AFSPC-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites to geosynchronous orbit.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the Air Force said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement; and fiscal 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation funding in the amount of $354,811,947 will be obligated at the time of award.”

Watch First Two SpaceX Starlink Satellites Deployed

These test satellites were secondary payloads on the Falcon 9 launch of the Paz satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning. Elon Musk’s company plans to provide global broadband services through two satellite constellations composed of 12,000 satellites.

SpaceX Launches Satellites from Vandenberg, Misses Fairing Recovery

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday morning.

The primary payload was Hisdesat’s Paz satellite, which will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The spacecraft was built by Airbus Defence and Space.

Elon Musk’s company also launched two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 satellites in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.

Musk tweeted that the fairing missed landing on Mr. Steven, a ship equipped with a giant net.

“Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water. Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent.”

SpaceX’s focus now shifts to Florida for a Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Sunday. The booster will carry the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, which will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas. The launch is scheduled for 12:35 a.m. EST (0535 GMT).

SpaceX to Launch Global Satellite Broadband Test Spacecraft on Wednesday

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX is set to launch two spacecraft next week that will demonstration technologies for providing fast global broadband services through a constellation of 12,000 satellites.

Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b spacecraft will hitch a ride aboard a Falcon 9 booster whose primary payload is the Paz synthetic aperture radar satellite. The launch has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6:17 a.m. PST ( 9:17 a.m. EST; 1417 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until Wednesday

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard, , Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been delayed until Wednesday, Feb. 21. The launch had been previously scheduled for Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.

The primary payload is the Paz satellite for Hisdesat of Spain. The spacecraft will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Elon Musk’s company will also launch two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.

Here is the launch schedule for the next two weeks. Check for updates here.

Feb. 21

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:17 a.m. EST; 6:17 a.m. PST (1417 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Japanese government’s Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

Feb. 25

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: 12:35 a.m. EST (0535 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5
Payload: GOES-S
Launch Time: 5:02-7:02 p.m. EST (2202-0002 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The United Launch Alliance rocket will launch the second next-generation geostationary weather satellite for NASA and NOAA.

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: French Guiana

The four O3b Networks will provide broadband services to developing countries.

Richard Branson Vows to Upstage Elon Musk in Space

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gave out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson says he’s looking for some way to upstage SpaceX’s launch of Falcon Heavy and Starman driving a Red Tesla.

“I was a little bit jealous,” Richard Branson told CNN’s Christine Romans on Tuesday.

Branson, whose Virgin Galactic is racing to launch tourists into space before SpaceX, called Musk’s stunning Falcon Heavy launch “extraordinary.”

“They all just did fantastic,” Branson said at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington. He added that Virgin Galactic is “thinking about what we can do to upstage that one.”

Hey, good luck with that.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Backs SpaceX’s Satellite Internet Plan

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON, February 14, 2018 (FCC PR) —Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today proposed that the agency approve an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the United States and on a global basis. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application—along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S. market for non-geostationary satellite orbit systems—involves one such innovation. Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available.

“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.”

Background

Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.

Video Interview With New ISRO Chairman

Video Caption: India’s “Rocket Man” Dr Sivan K, who was named the new chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation last month, is unfazed by the so-called cheap launches offered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. ISRO’s rockets, he said, are cheap, robust and meet the nation’s needs.

The 60-year-old from Tamil Nadu, who was born in a farmer’s family, has helped take on SpaceX’s Elon Musk through the launch of 104 satellites in a single mission in February last year. The venture had placed India firmly on the map of commercial satellite launches.

In an interview to NDTV, Dr Sivan said the next big thrust to expand ISRO’s commercial ventures would be “Baby PSLV” – the smaller, modular rocket for on-demand launches. There is also a huge scope for re-usable rocket technology, another ongoing project, which would further reduce the cost of launch.

NDTV is one of the leaders in the production and broadcasting of un-biased and comprehensive news and entertainment programmes in India and abroad. NDTV delivers reliable information across all platforms: TV, Internet and Mobile.

SpaceX Launches Luxembourg Satellite, Russia Orbits Earth Observation Spacecraft

Falcon 9 first stage floating in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX successfully launched the GovSat-1 satellite for Luxembourg on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft will provide secure military communications for the Luxembourg government.

SpaceX did not plan to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster. However, it looks like the company will be able to do that after all.

“This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote in a tweet that included a picture of the booster floating in the ocean..

About five hours later, Russia opened its 2018 launch campaign with a successful flight of a Soyuz booster from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The rocket orbited the Kanopus-V 3 and 4 Earth observation satellites that will be used for mapping, disaster response and forest fire detection.

Musk’s New Tesla Pay Package Seems to be Aimed at Mars

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk has a new pay package with Tesla Motors that could net him $55 billion over the next decade if the company reaches a series of extremely ambitious targets, according to press reports. If he doesn’t reach those goals in 10 years, he could end up with nothing.

That might seem like a crazy plan even for Musk, who is known for taking great risks. But, it makes sense when you consider the billionaire’s ultimate long-term goal: to develop a transportation system to facilitate the establishment of human colonies on Mars.

Musk has said he is dedicating his personal wealth to that objective. And although his net worth is estimated at $21 billion, actual profits from his various businesses have been elusive.

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A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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