American, Russian Cargo Ships Set to Resupply Space Station

Dextre at the end of Canadarm2 preparing to remove cargo from Dragon. (Credit: NASA)

The Expedition 50 crew is gearing up for three different spaceships in two months to resupply the International Space Station. The crew also worked today on a variety of research hardware and practiced an emergency drill.

(more…)

Orbital ATK Awarded $78 Million STPSat-6 Integration Contract

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Space and Missiles Systems Center has awarded a sole-source contract for Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) payload integration services to Orbital ATK, Feb. 3. The STPSat-6 spacecraft will be the primary payload on the STP-3 mission expected to launch no earlier than June 2019.

The STPSat-6 integration services contract includes: payload integration, spacecraft bus modification, and test of the space vehicle. The contract also requires technical support services including SV-to-launch vehicle integration, launch preparation and execution, and on-orbit support.

(more…)

Orbital ATK Sues to Stop DARPA Satellite Servicing Program


Orbital ATK has filed a lawsuit against DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, arguing that it competes with its own Mission Extension Vehicle program.

Under the public-private partnership envisioned by DARPA, an industry partner would eventually be able to profit from RSGS by offering robotic satellite servicing to commercial and government entities. Meanwhile, the government would be able to buy those services at a reduced price.

But Orbital ATK says that the program violates the National Space Policy, which states that the government should not subsidize space-related activities that private entities are willing to invest in on their own. The company has been developing its own servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle, has already booked Intelsat as its first customer and is set for a 2018 launch.

“The U.S. National Space Policy explicitly directs government agencies to avoid funding activities that are already in development in the commercial marketplace,” the company said in a statement. “Orbital ATK will continue to pursue all available options to oppose DARPA from moving forward with this illegal and wasteful use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

DARPA declined to comment on pending legal action, but has been adamant that its program does not flout U.S. space policy. In a Feb. 3 letter to Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., DARPA acting director Steven Walker said the agency had conducted a review of the program, as requested by the lawmaker.

“We believe the program is consistent with the 2010 National Space policy,” Walker wrote.

Read the full story.

Members of Congress Urge DARPA to Reconsider Satellite Servicing Program

Four members of Congress have sent letters to DARPA asking the defense agency to review a satellite servicing program they believe duplicates other efforts by a commercial company and NASA.

“We are concerned that DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellite (RSGS) program is duplicating commercial investment and capability in violation of National Space Policy and contrary to the best interests of taxpayers,” reads one letter signed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA).

(more…)

Space Angels Network Opposes Removing Limits on ICBM Motors

Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)
Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)

The Space Angels Network has been lobbying against an amendment to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow greater use of excess ICBM motors for commercial satellite launches. The network says the measure would benefit one company, Orbital ATK, whose Minotaur line of boosters uses these motor,  at the expense of an emerging commercial small-satellite launch industry.

The use of ICBM motors are liimited to launches where commercial alternatives are unavailable. The amendment would remove that restriction.

A letter the network sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee is reproduced below.

(more…)

Next Cygnus Resupply Mission Set for March

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK has completed a significant mission milestone for NASA’s next International Space Station cargo mission.

(more…)

Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
(more…)

USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

(more…)

NASA’s Exploration Year in Review

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”
(more…)

NASA Earth Science Mission Hampered by Budget, Launcher Issues

Earth_from_Orbit
Although NASA’s Earth Science Division is substantially meeting stakeholder’s needs for Earth observation data, the space agency has fallen behind on launching an ambitious series of missions planned out nearly a decade ago, according to an Office of Inspector General (IG) report released last month.

(more…)

Space Florida Approves Minotaur Launches From Florida

minotaur4
Minotaur IV booster

The Space Florida Board of Directors last week approved a plan to allow Orbital ATK to use Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) at Cape Canaveral for Minotaur launches. The board instructed staff members to complete negotiations and enter into a contract with the Virginia-based company.

The board’s approval clears the way for Orbital ATK to launch the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space’s ORS-5 SensorSat spacecraft in mid-2017.

SensorSat will be launched aboard a Minotaur IV rocket under a $23.6 million contract.

“The risks associated with operating the site and launching the vehicle are born by [Orbital ATK],” according to the board’s meeting agenda. “The Company will pay a reimbursement fee to Space Florida for all fees and costs incurred by Space Florida associated with the use of the Premises.”

SLC-46 increases the locations where Minotaur rockets can be launched to four. Orbital ATK has launch facilities for the booster in Virginia, California and Alaska.

Space Florida is eyeing SLC-46 for other launches, including or a test of the Orion abort system in 2019.

Save

Orbital ATK’s Pegasus Launches NASA CYGNSS Spacecraft

Stargazer aircraft carrying Pegasus XL rocket with CYGNSS satellite. (Credit: Orbital ATK)
Stargazer aircraft carrying Pegasus XL rocket with CYGNSS satellite. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Va. (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Pegasus® rocket successfully launched the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) satellite for NASA. The successful launch was the 29th consecutive successful mission for the Pegasus rocket since 1997 and the 43rd overall flight of the world’s first privately developed commercial rocket.

(more…)

Pegasus XL Launches 8 Satellites to Track Hurricanes

Video Caption: NASA successfully launched eight small satellites that will provide scientists with advanced technology to see inside tropical storms and hurricanes like never before. Called the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), the constellation of eight microsatellite observatories launched Dec. 15 aboard an Orbital ATK air-launched Pegasus XL launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket was dropped and launched from Orbital’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of central Florida.

NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA’s investigation into the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship in June 2015 keeps getting more and more interesting.

I checked in again last week with the space agency about when it would be releasing a public report on the 18-month old accident. This is what a NASA spokesperson told me (emphasis mine):

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

That is a rather long time, even for a sometimes pokey government agency investigating the failure of a booster variant no longer in use.
(more…)

USAF Awards Minotaur I Launch Contract to Orbital ATK

Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)
Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The U.S. Air Force’s Rocket Systems Launch Program, part of the Launch Enterprise Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), awarded the National Reconnaissance Office Launch-111 contract to Orbital ATK.

The contract is a firm-fixed-price contract valued at $29.2 million for a Minotaur I launch vehicle. This was the first such award under the Orbital/Suborbital Program 3 (OSP-3) Lane 1 capability. The OSP-3 contract Lane 1 capability is for 400-4,000 lbs. (181-1,810 kg) to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and long-range, sub-orbital missions.

(more…)