Spaceflight Nowreports that SpaceX is completing plans for a mobile service tower so the company can integrate U.S. military satellites onto its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while they are in a vertical position on Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The tower will surround Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets at pad 39A, shielding the vehicles from storms and high winds and providing a controlled environment for ground crews to hoist heavy satellites and mount them on top of the launch vehicles in a vertical configuration.
SpaceX currently installs satellites, already cocooned inside their payload shrouds, onto Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets horizontally inside hangars near the company’s launch pads. But some of thee U.S. government’s most sensitive intelligence-gathering satellites, some of which come with billion-dollar or higher price tags, are designed to be mounted on their launch vehicles vertically.
SpaceX officials said the vertical integration capability is required for participants in the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center — now part of the U.S. Space Force — released a request for proposals for the Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement last May.
The military plans to select two companies later this year to launch the Pentagon’s most critical satellite missions from 2022 through 2026. The military’s incumbent National Security Space Launch providers — United Launch Alliance and SpaceX — are competing for the lucrative contracts with newcomers Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin for the Phase 2 contracts.
NASA’s culture of excessive optimism and its tendency to underestimate technical challenges combine with funding instability to cause cost overruns and schedule delays, according to a new report from the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The document identified NASA’s management of major projects as one of the space agency’s top seven performance challenges. [Full Report]
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has upheld a pre-award protest by Blue Origin over the selection process the U.S. Air Force is using to award contracts for military launches for the years 2022 to 2027.
GAO recommended the Air Force modify the solicitation under which it planned to select two companies that would compete for launches during that period. The decision would have been based on which combination of two independently developed proposals provided the best value to the government.
SAN DIEGO, CA, 26 August 2019 – General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that commissioning of NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), the primary hosted payload on-board the Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite, is now underway. GA-EMS’ OTB was successfully launched at 2:30 a.m. EDT on June 25, 2019 on board the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
The following statement can be attributed to Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX:
“SpaceX means to serve as the Air Force’s long-term provider for space launch, offering existing, certified and proven launch systems capable of carrying out the full spectrum of national security space launch missions and requirements.”
Overall, SpaceX’s mature, operationally proven Falcon launch system delivers significant flight heritage and is fully capable of reliably supporting Phase 2 National Security Space Launch missions.
Phase 2 presents an opportunity to utilize and expand this certified operational capability to support the full spectrum of national security space launch requirements, leveraging the years-long, close technical relationship between SpaceX and the USG Team. This collaboration has delivered mission success for critical national security payloads, including National Reconnaissance Office Launch 76 (NROL-76), Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5), Global Positioning System III-2 (GPS III-2), and STP-2.
SpaceX’s Falcon launch system is the only system offered for Phase 2 NSSL that is flying today and has already achieved national security space certification—SpaceX is clearly the lowest-risk solution for the Government to provide assured access to space on time and on budget.
Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.
In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.
HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) — The Air Force Research Laboratory successfully put new technologies into space, June 25, as part of the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP-2) mission, managed by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.
The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft sprang loose from its Prox-1 carrier vehicle as planned today, and sent its first signals back to mission control at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California.
The CubeSat, about the size of a loaf of bread, was scheduled to leave Prox-1 precisely 7 days after both spacecraft successfully flew to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Following deployment from its spring-loaded enclosure known as a P-POD, LightSail 2 deployed its radio antenna and began transmitting health and status data, as well as a morse code beacon indicating its call sign. The mission team received LightSail 2’s first signals on 2 July at 01:34 PDT (08:34 UTC), as the spacecraft passed over Cal Poly.
“The Georgia Tech Prox-1 spacecraft did its job perfectly, delivering LightSail 2 to the desired orbit for solar sailing,” said LightSail 2 project manager Dave Spencer. “Receiving the initial radio signal from LightSail 2 is an important milestone, and the flight team is excited to begin mission operations.”
“We’re all very happy—after years of preparation, we are flying an operational spacecraft!” added Bruce Betts, LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist.
GUILDFORD, UK (Surrey Satellite PR) — The successful launch on 24 June 2019 (EST) of 6 satellites for the FORMOSAT-7 joint US-Taiwanese weather forecasting constellation marks the start of another SSTL-enabled space mission, a cause for celebration at SSTL’s UK HQ.
SAN DIEGO, CA (General Atomics PR) – General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that its Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite was successfully launched on-board the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral. OTB was then successfully deployed into orbit after launch, and communication was established between the spacecraft and ground operations to begin satellite commissioning and operations.
SPARKS, Nev. (SNC PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) free-flying satellite, built on a spacecraft platform designed and developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), is on-orbit and successfully performing experiments.
DSX is the latest innovative satellite program from SNC, the global aerospace and national security contractor owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, successfully launched the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 mission from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 2:30 a.m. EDT on June 25 (11:30 p.m. Pacific, June 24).
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA technology demonstrations, which one day could help the agency get astronauts to Mars, and science missions, which will look at the space environment around Earth and how it affects us, have launched into space on a Falcon Heavy rocket.
The NASA missions lifted off at 2:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) launch.