Pentagon Seeks $14.1 Billion for Military Space Programs

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Department of Defense (DOD) has requested to spend $14.1 billion on space programs in FY 2020, an amount that includes the establishment of a Space Force within the U.S. Air Force and a new Space Development Agency.

“The FY 2020 budget accelerates our efforts to move to a defendable space posture, which is critical as our adversaries continue to develop capabilities to counter our advantages in space,” the DOD said in budget documents. “This budget invests in the survivable and resilient Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system and continues modernization of our GPS satellites communications systems and space warfighting enterprise.”

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SpaceX Launches 21st & Final Mission of 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Sunday, December 23rd at 5:51 a.m. PST, SpaceX successfully launched the United States Air Force’s first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff.

The United States’ Global Positioning System delivers positioning, navigation, and timing services supporting vital U.S. and allied operations worldwide, and underpins critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that billions of users have come to depend on daily.

The Launch Facility

The United States Air Force’s first GPS III satellite will augment the current constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites. This newest generation of GPS satellites is designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation, and timing information with three times better accuracy, and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability. GPS is used by over four billion users and supports critical missions worldwide.

GPS is a National Security Space (NSS) mission, critical to national defense. In April 2016, SpaceX was awarded its first NSS mission, GPS III SV01. SpaceX currently has an additional four GPS III missions on contract, all of which will be launched on Falcon 9.

Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida SpaceX’s SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is a world-class launch site that builds on a strong heritage. The site, located at the north end of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, was used for many years to launch Titan rockets, among the most powerful in the U.S. fleet. SpaceX took over the facility in May 2008.

The center of the complex is composed of the concrete launch pad and flame diverter system. Surrounding the pad are four lightning towers, propellant storage tanks, and the integration hangar. Before launch, Falcon 9’s stages and payload are housed inside the hangar. The payload is mated to the Falcon 9 inside SLC-40’s hangar on the transporter erector. The rocket and payload are then rolled out from the hangar to the launch pad and lifted to a vertical position.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Rescheduled for Sunday

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Credits: NASA Television)

SpaceX canceled its launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on Saturday due to strong upper level winds. The company will make another attempt on Sunday. The current launch schedule is:

Sunday, Dec. 23

Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3-01 navigation satellite
Launch Window: 8:51 a.m. EST (13:51 UTC GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX’s 21st and final launch of 2018.

December 26/27

Soyuz
Payloads: Kanopus-V 5 & 6 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 9:07 p.m. EST (0207 GMT on Dec. 27)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

 

No Earlier Than Dec. 30

Delta 4-Heavy
Payload: NROL-71 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com/

 

UK Government Invests £92 Million to Study Independent Satellite Navigation System

LONDON (UK Government PR) — UK industry will benefit from a £92 million [$119.8 million] injection to design a national alternative to the EU’s Galileo satellite system, ensuring UK security post Brexit.

  • Government to invest £92 million [$119.8 million] of Brexit readiness money on plans for independent satellite system
  • 18-month study will look at the design and development of UK programme
  • This will inform the decision to create the system as an alternative to Galileo
  • The UK Space Agency will lead the work with full support from the Ministry of Defence

The money has been allocated from the £3 billion [$3.9 billion] Brexit readiness fund announced at last year’s Budget and will be rolled out over the coming months.
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China Sets New Record for Launches in Calendar Year

China set a new national record for the number of launches in a calendar year.

A Long March 3B booster lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with two Beidou navigation satellites bound for medium Earth orbit. It was the 23rd successful launch of the year with no failures.

To date, China has launched six boosters with 11 Beidou satellites aboard in 2018. The navigation satellite system, which is similar to the U.S. Global Positioning System and Europe’s Galileo constellation, will eventually have 35 satellites in orbit.

China’s launch total for 2018 is expected to be in the low to mid-30’s.

NOAA Issues RFP for Commercial Weather Data Pilot Program

NOAA has issued a request for proposals for the second phase of its commercial weather data pilot program.

The program’s goal is to determine whether GPS radio occultation data from commercial satellites can be used to improve weather forecasting. Radio occultation involves the change in a radio signal as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for the measurement of physical properties there.

The firm-fixed price contracts for the second phase will run from  Aug. 27, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019. The data collection and delivery period will run from Oct. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

Companies are required to provide at least two periods of at least three consecutive months of radio occultation data during the collection period. A minimum of 500 atmospheric soundings per day are required. Data must be delivered to NOAA at least once per week.

NASA issued contracts to GeoOptics and Spire for the first phase of the pilot program in September 2016. Space News reports the program did not go very smoothly, but that NOAA officials had learned a number of key lessons from it that are being included in the second phase.

GeoOptics’ contract was terminated when the company was unable to provide data because of delays in the launch of its first satellites.

While Spire did provide data, NOAA officials said later that the quality of the data fell short of expectations. “We have gone through one contract already with the radio occultation community, and we found that the data aren’t accurate enough or comprehensive enough yet to meet our observing requirements,” Stephen Volz, NOAA assistant administrator for satellite and information services, said in January. Spire said that the data from its constellation of cubesats has improved significantly since the end of that initial round of the pilot program in April 2017.

NOAA officials have said for several months that they are working on a report analyzing the results of that first round of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot. However, NOAA spokesman John Leslie said May 7 that the report is still “nearing competition” within the agency and will be released publicly once it is completed.

Proposals for phase two are due on May 25.

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.”

NASA Team First to Demonstrate X-ray Navigation in Space

This illustration shows the NICER mission at work aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In a technology first, a team of NASA engineers has demonstrated fully autonomous X-ray navigation in space — a capability that could revolutionize NASA’s ability in the future to pilot robotic spacecraft to the far reaches of the solar system and beyond.

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Space Commanders Address Operations, Importance at AFA

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) — Several of the Air Force’s space commanders spoke on a panel about the significance of Air Force space operations and its undeniable importance to national defense during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 19, 2017.

The Air Force is the lead service for space and has the vast majority of the Defense Department’s space systems, personnel and budget with 36,000 Airmen at 134 different locations.
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Lockheed Martin Invests $350 Million in State-of-Art Satellite Production Facility

Lockheed Martin Gateway Center. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

DENVER, Aug. 2, 2017 (Lockheed Martin PR) — Preliminary construction is underway on a new, $350 million Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) facility that will produce next-generation satellites. The new facility, located on the company’s Waterton Canyon campus near Denver, is the latest step in an ongoing transformation, infused with innovation to provide future missions at reduced cost and cycle time.

The new Gateway Center, slated for completion in 2020, includes a state-of-the-art high bay clean room capable of simultaneously building a spectrum of satellites from micro to macro. The facility’s paperless, digitally-enabled production environment incorporates rapidly-reconfigurable production lines and advanced test capability. It includes an expansive thermal vacuum chamber to simulate the harsh environment of space, an anechoic chamber for highly perceptive testing of sensors and communications systems, and an advanced test operations and analysis center. The Gateway Center will be certified to security standards required to support vital national security missions.

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DOD Space Acquisition Plagued by Delays, Cost Overruns & Fragmented Leadership

Space Acquisitions: DOD Continues to Face Challenges of Delayed Delivery of Critical Space Capabilities and Fragmented Leadership
Government Accountability Office
GAO-17-619T [Full Report]

Statement of Cristina T. Chaplain, Director,
Acquisition and Sourcing Management

Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,
Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate

For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2:00 p.m. ET
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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Watch Masten’s Xodiac Vehicle Soar

Video Caption: Over the past five weeks, NASA and Masten teams have prepared for and conducted sub-orbital rocket flight tests of next-generation lander navigation technology through the CoOperative Blending of Autonomous Landing Technologies (COBALT) project.

The COBALT payload was integrated onto Masten’s rocket, Xodiac. The Xodiac vehicle used the Global Positioning System (GPS) for navigation during this first campaign, which was intentional to verify and refine COBALT system performance. The joint teams conducted numerous ground verification tests, made modifications in the process, practiced and refined operations’ procedures, conducted three tether tests, and have now flown two successful free flights. This successful, collaborative campaign has provided the COBALT and Xodiac teams with the valuable performance data needed to refine the systems and prepare them for the second flight test campaign this summer when the COBALT system will navigate the Xodiac rocket to a precision landing.

The technologies within COBALT provide a spacecraft with knowledge during entry, descent and landing that enables it to precisely navigate and softly land close to surface locations that have been previously too risky to target with current capabilities. The technologies will enable future exploration destinations on Mars, the moon, Europa, and other planets and moons.

The two primary navigation components within COBALT include the Langley Research Center’s Navigation Doppler Lidar, which provides ultra-precise velocity and line-of-sight range measurements, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Lander Vision System, which provides navigation estimates relative to an existing surface map.

The integrated system is being flight tested onboard a Masten Space Systems suborbital rocket vehicle called Xodiac. The COBALT project is led by the Johnson Space Center, with funding provided through the Game Changing Development, Flight Opportunities program, and Advanced Exploration Systems programs.

SpaceX Wins U.S. Air Force Launch Contract

The Autonomous Flight Safety System first flew from the Eastern Range on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 Feb. 19, 2017. The use of AFSS reduces range space lift costs through reductions in range equipment maintenance and upgrades. (Credit: SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX a contract worth $96,500,490 to launch a GPS III satellite aboard a Falcon 9 booster.

The service announced the contract on a DOD procurement website on Tuesday. The announcement gives a completion date of April 30, 2019.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with two offers received,” the announcement states. United Launch Alliance (ULA) is the only other company with launch vehicles certified to fly payloads of this class.

The is the second contract the U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX for a GPS III launch. ULA did not submit a bid for the previous award.

Swarm Reveals Why Satellites Lose Track

Signals (yellow lines) from GPS satellites can be interrupted when lower-orbiting satellites like Swarm fly into equatorial plasma irregularities. The green line is a sample electron density profile measured by the Swarm satellites during one of these events. (Credit: ESA–ATG medialab)
Signals (yellow lines) from GPS satellites can be interrupted when lower-orbiting satellites like Swarm fly into equatorial plasma irregularities. The green line is a sample electron density profile measured by the Swarm satellites during one of these events. (Credit: ESA–ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Satellite engineers have been puzzling over why GPS navigation systems on low-orbiting satellites like ESA’s Swarm sometimes black out when they fly over the equator between Africa and South America. Thanks to Swarm, it appears ‘thunderstorms’ in the ionosphere are to blame.

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New Iridium Service Replaces and/or Augments GPS

Iridium_logo

MCLEAN, Va., May 23, 2016 (Iridium PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) announced today the official launch of Satellite Time and Location (STL), an alternative or companion to traditional location-based technologies, and declared it ready for use.

For the first time, end users now have access to accurate and resilient position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology that works anywhere on the planet, even indoors. Due to the unique architecture of its 66 cross-linked, low-earth orbit satellite constellation, Iridium® is the only network that has the global coverage and reliability needed to deliver this highly unique, robust and cost-effective solution to the market.

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