Tag: SpaceX

Disconnect Between USAF & SpaceX Led to Certification Problems

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

An independent review of the U.S. Air Force’s certification of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket found a “stark disconnect in perceptions” between the two parties about how the process was to unfold.

“There is also a lack of common understanding” of “some basic objectives and definitions” spelled out in a 2013 agreement on the steps toward certifying Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., retired Air Force Chief of Staff Larry Welch said in the review.

While the two sides have become conciliatory and say they expect SpaceX to be certified for launches by June, the report lays out a cultural collision between Musk’s entrepreneurial impatience and the Air Force’s methodical bureaucracy.

Describing the past conflicts, Welch said the company’s view “is that the Air Force should have confidence in SpaceX capabilities based on its track record of performance,” while the Air Force “has approached certification as a detailed design review.”

“Neither view was the intent of the original certification plan,” which envisioned a “partnership that leveraged the commercial practices and experience of SpaceX and decades of Air Force experience,” Welch said. “Both teams need to adjust.”

Read the full story.

USAF to Phase Out Subsidy to ULA

A transporter for oversize loads delivers the port, or left, booster for the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy for Exploration Flight Test-1 into the Horizontal Integration Facility, or HIF, on May 7. The port booster joins the other two boosters of the Delta IV Heavy already in the HIF. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

A transporter for oversize loads delivers the port, or left, booster for the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy for Exploration Flight Test-1 into the Horizontal Integration Facility, or HIF, on May 7. The port booster joins the other two boosters of the Delta IV Heavy already in the HIF. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

The U.S. Air Force said on Wednesday it would phase out a major subsidy it pays United Launch Alliance (ULA)

Air Force Space Command Commander General John Hyten said acquisition officials were working on a plan to to phase out the infrastructure support contract, which he said was initially put in place to protect “a very fragile industrial base.”

He said it was not possible to have a fair competition with the contracts in place, backing an argument often made by privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, which is vying for some of the launch contracts now carried out by ULA.

In prepared testimony between the House Armed Services Committee last week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell called for an end to the contract.

Eliminate payments—more properly called subsidies—under the EELV Launch Capability (ELC) contract line items that exclusively support the incumbent provider and properly account for such payments for any competitive solicitations in the interim to ensure a fair and level playing field, especially since these funds do not contribute to the true nature of assured access to space. The Department and this Committee have called fo r real, meaningful competition. That means eliminating the unfairness. All we seek is the right to compete in a fair competition. Just like reliance on the RD-180 engine, it is time for these subsidy payments to the incumbent to come to an end.

Through the EELV Launch Capability, initially referred to as “assured access to space” payments, the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) pay ULA approximately $1 billion per year through distinct cost-plus-incentive-fee contract line items. These payments cover most of ULA’s fixed costs — for example, launch infrastructure, systems engineering and program management, launch operations, mission integration, base and range support costs, transportation costs, capital depreciation, and non-recurring engineering to name a few — for “up to eight launches” per year. These payments are in addition to the firm-fixed-price that ULA charges for EELV Launch Services (ELS) for each launch ordered through the block buy contract.

Video of SpaceX SuperDraco Engine Test


Air Force Releases Results of Space Launch Process Review

Falcon 9 static fire. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 static fire. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (Air Force PR) – The Air Force announced March 23, that the phase one results of the independent review panel tasked by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James to review the process for certifying SpaceX as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) provider.

“To ensure we are fully capitalizing on our joint lessons learned, I directed an independent review of our certification process,” James said. “Our goal was to assess not only our current processes but also to recommend improvements.”

Continue reading ‘Air Force Releases Results of Space Launch Process Review’

SpaceX’s Busy To-Do List for Rest of 2015

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was making the rounds last week in Washington, D.C., speaking before the Satellite 2015 conference and a House Armed Services subcommittee meeting. Much of the focus was on the latter, where Shotwell engaged in a she said-he said battle over launch costs with United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno.

More interesting were the updates Shotwell provided on SpaceX’s plans for 2015 and beyond. What emerged is just how crowded the company’s agenda is for the rest of the year. The table below provides a summary.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX’s Busy To-Do List for Rest of 2015′

SpaceX Eyes Spaceport America for Testing Recovered Boosters

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

NASASpaceflight.com reports SpaceX is eying its test site at Spaceport America for putting recovered Falcon 9 first stages through their paces:

The New Mexico spaceport will host the recovered booster – potentially the core stage from the upcoming CRS-6 mission, if recovered – for an additional flight to find hardware limits, paving the way for the first full reuse of a stage during a future launch in 2016….

Those tests will be used to find hardware limits, such as how many cycles can be put on a stage, while the second successfully recovered booster would provide the role of qualification testing.

Should the recovery efforts progress, the first launch of a reused booster is likely to occur in late 2016.

Another major milestone in the reusability path will be a stage returning to land, with the earliest planned attempt – should all testing go to plan ahead of the mission – being the Jason-3 launch in the summer.

This would result in the stage returning for a landing at SLC-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This will be at the mercy of SpaceX’s confidence levels, and a second ASDS, based on the West Coast, has already been confirmed.

Read the full story.

Space Access Society Update


Space Access Update #139
Copyright 2015 by Space Access Society

In this Issue:

FY’16 Political Season Underway: Early Roundup

House Passes NASA Authorization

Commercial Crew Contracts

FAA AST “Learning Period” Extension

Our Colleagues Have Been Busy

                          Pioneering Space Summit

                          Alliance For Space Development

                          March Storm

         Space Access ’15 Conference April 30 – May 2, 2015 in Phoenix


FY’16 Political Season Underway: Early Roundup

While we’ve been putting together our upcoming Space Access Conference, another DC space political season has been getting underway. It’s time we took a quick look at what’s going on so far. In no particular order… Continue reading ‘Space Access Society Update’

SpaceX Builds Integration Facility at Pad 39-A

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39-A. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX is deep into construction of a new horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39-A. The 300-foot-long structure is being built at the base of the pad on Kennedy Space Center’s historic crawlerway to process the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for Commercial Crew flights. The pad facilities also will be used for launches using the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Battle Heats Up for Next Round of ISS Supply Contracts

Cygnus and ISS robotic arm (Credit: NASA)

Cygnus and ISS robotic arm (Credit: NASA)

It appears as if at least five companies have submitted bids for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract to send cargo ships to the International Space Station.

The Washington Post reports current cargo shippers Orbital ATK and SpaceX have been joined in the bidding by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation. NASA is likely to once again award two contracts for a series of supply missions.

Boeing is working on its CST-100 spacecraft to send human crews to the station. Lockheed Martin recently tested the Orion deep-space capsule it is building for NASA. And Sierra Nevada Corporation has its Dream Chaser shuttle.

Meanwhile, NASA has awarded contracts for four more cargo flights to the space station under an extension of its existing CRS program. SpaceX will fly three additional missions using its Dragon cargo ship; Orbital ATK will get one more flight of the Cygnus freighter.

Musk, Page, Bezos & Branson Lead List of Disruptive Innovators


SpaceX’s Elon Musk, Google’s Larry Page, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson has been named the most effective CEO’s in achieving disruptive innovation among established companies in a new survey.

The poll was conducted by Big Think, where important people ponder big things, and the Singularity University, which puts the exponent in  exponential technology.  The poll was apparently taken in January and involved an unidentified number of Singularity University program participants.

The four men, who are heavily invested in various space projects,  beat out such business luminaries as Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Ma of Alibaba.