Mike Griffin Alienating Friends & Enemies Alike, Firing Scientists at New Pentagon Job

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.

In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).

Key personnel have departed as critics have attacked Griffin for what they view as his erratic management and decision making. In addition to SDA, he is in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

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Astra Space Set to Launch From Alaska

Astra Space is set for the first flight of its new small-satellite launcher on Thursday from Alaska.

The FAA has granted a launch license to the California company for a suborbital flight of Rocket 1 from Launch Pad 2 at the Pacific spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

A notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the launch has been posted for April 5 at 2000 UTC and ending on April 6 at 0200 UTC (12 to 6 p.m. AKDT /4 to 10 p.m. EDT).

Details are sparse about the company and booster. However, it is believed that the two-stage rocket will be capable of placing a payload weighing up to 100 kg into orbit.

The Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the Kodiak spaceport, has billed the flight as the first of what it hopes will be many commercial launches from the underused facility.

Formerly known as Ventions LLC, Astra Space is operating under a $2 million contract with NASA to develop and flight test a high performance electric pump-fed launch vehicle. The 18-month contract runs through mid-December.

Founded in 2004, the company has been awarded 29 contracts worth nearly $21 million over the past 11 years from NASA, U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army.











A Closer Look at Astra Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

At some point in the next few weeks, the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska will host its first commercial rocket launch. Officials at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the spaceport, are hoping the suborbital test flight is the first of many commercial flights from the underused facility.

While officials have not identified the California company conducting the launch, a perusal of the corporation’s board minutes indicate it is almost certainly a small Bay Area startup named Astra Space.

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North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Helping to Keep Alaska Aerospace in Business

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army soldiers of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas, conducted a successful missile defense test on July 30 using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. (Credit: MDA)

The nuclear missile threat posed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has proven to be a lifeline to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and its little used Kodiak launch facilities.

Twice during the past month, the U.S. Army launched Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptors from the The Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak. The tests were done under an $80.4 million contract with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The contract helped revive the struggling agency, which suffered serious damage to its launch facilities in 2014 after a U.S. Army rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. The state-run corporation is eyeing the booming small-satellite market.

One commercial contract that is signed and scheduled for December is with a new space company that cannot now be identified, Campbell said.

Vector Space Systems, an Arizona-based company formerly known as Garvey Spacecraft, has also signed with Alaska Aerospace for test flights of its new Nanosat Launch Vehicle, the Vector-R, in 2018.

A contract that still in negotiation for launches planned in 2018 and 2019, is with Rocket Lab USA, a California-based company that has been in the space business for several years.

Rocket Lab now wants to use Kodiak for launches of its new “Electron” rocket, Campbell said.

Another company in discussions for launches in 2019 is Zero Point Frontiers, based in Alabama, for its 55-foot Xbow Launch Vehicle that will launch small satellites to orbit.

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AAC Gets Military Contract Worth Up to $80.4 Million for Kodiak Testing

alaska_aerospace_corpWASHINGTON, DC (Alaska Delegation PR) – Today the Alaska Congressional Delegation praised the announcement by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) that it has awarded a sole source contract to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) to support two flight tests of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Systems (THAAD) at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska on Kodiak, Alaska.

The contract, which could total up to $80.4 million, will support MDA’s flight test requirements for the 3rd Quarter of Fiscal Year 2017 and will include the site preparation for two THAAD launchers, range communication and instrumentation capabilities, and a Life Support Area. This new development positions the Kodiak launch facility for a bright future in missile defense testing.

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MDA Eyes Kodiak Launch Complex for Missile Defense Flight Tests

Credit: Alaska Aerospace Corp.
Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (Credit: Alaska Aerospace Corp.)

There was some good news last week for the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), which has struggled to find users for the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced that it would award AAC a contract to support flight tests for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) at the spaceport. The contract has a five-year base with a single one-year option.

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Alaska Aerospace Announces New Office Serving the Huntsville Market

alaska_aerospace_corpANCHORAGE, AK (AAC PR) – Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), recognizing strong demand and aerospace industry growth in northeast Alabama, announces the opening of their new office in Huntsville, Alabama. This is the first permanent presence outside of Alaska for the company.

Craig E. Campbell, AAC President and CEO, states “Alaska Aerospace has supported a number of missions for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and by opening an office in Huntsville, we will be well positioned to be more responsive to our customers’ future needs.”

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Where is the U.S. Space Program Going — and Why?

A pair of editorials in Florida newspapers have raised concerns about what editors view as a dangerous drift in space policy at both the state and national levels.

The St. Petersburg Times notes that although the Obama Administration has provided NASA with billions of additional funding and reaffirmed his predecessor’s plans to return to the moon, it has not provided a clear reason why:

But the Obama administration has come no closer to explaining a rationale for the moon mission than the Bush administration did. It also has not laid out how the United States would keep the manned space program alive in the five years between when it retires the space shuttle in 2010 and starts flying the next-generation Constellation craft in 2015.

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