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Launch Provider Panel at Space Tech Expo

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Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)

Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)

At the Space Tech Expo last week in Long Beach, Calif., representatives from Arianespace, Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) discussed the fierce competition in the industry and their plans for the future.

PANELISTS

Carissa Christensen
Managing Partner
The Tauri Group
(Moderator)

Gwynne Shotwell
President & Chief Operating Officer
SpaceX

Daniel J Collins
Chief Operating Officer
United Launch Alliance

Clay Mowry
President
Arianespace

Frank Culbertson
Executive Vice President
Orbital Sciences Corporation

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Tax Exemption Measure Passes California Legislature

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Credit: Steven Pavlov

Credit: Steven Pavlov

A measure that will provide spaceflight companies with a 10-year exemption from certain property taxes has passed the California Senate.

Senators voted 32-2 to approve the bill, which had already passed the Assembly by a 69-5 vote. The measure will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for signing if the Assembly agrees with the Senate’s amendments to it.

As amended by the Senate, the property tax exemption would apply to

Tangible personal property, whether raw materials, work in process or finished goods, that has, or upon manufacture, assembly, or installation has, space flight capacity, including, but not limited to, an orbital space facility, space propulsion system, space vehicle, launch vehicle, satellite, or space station of any kind, and any component thereof, regardless of whether that property is to be ultimately returned to this state.

Fuel of a quality that is not adaptable for use in ordinary motor vehicles, but is produced, sold, and used exclusively for space flight.

The exemption would last from the January 1, 2014 lien date until Jan. 1, 2024.

The measure was introduced by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, whose district borders the one where SpaceX is located. A number of space companies in Mojave and across the state also will benefit.

Atlas V, Falcon 9 Launches Rescheduled

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Atlas V and Falcon 9 launches delayed by a problem on the Eastern Range have been rescheduled for April 10 and 14, respectively.

ULA’s Atlas V will launch NROL-67 — a National Reconnaissance Office payload — from Cape Canaveral on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. EDT. The launch window extends to 2:26 p.m. EDT. The company usually streams launched at www.ulalaunch.com.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch a Dragon freighter to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:58 p.m. EDT. The company typically streams its launches at www.spacex.com.

The launches were delayed because of a fire that knocked out a crucial radar unit the U.S. Air Force uses to track launches. Florida Today has a story about the problems on the Eastern Range, which include aging technology and budget cutbacks.

Below is a list of upcoming launches worldwide.

Date Launch Vehicle Payload(s) Launch Site Nation
04/09/14 Soyuz Progress 55P Baikonur Russia
04/10/14 Atlas V NROL-67 CCAFS USA
04/14/14 Falcon 9 CRS 3 CCAFS USA
04/16/14 Soyuz EgyptSat 2 Baikonur Russia
04/27/14 Proton Luch 5V & Kazsat 3 Baikonur Russia
04/28/14 Vega DZZ-HR Kourou Europe

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Senators Want USAF to Compete More Launches

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The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida.  (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Space News reports that seven U.S. Senators are pushing to open more U.S. Air Force launches to competition from SpaceX and other providers:

In an April 1 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the senators said the decision to shrink the number of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle missions eligible for competition to seven from 14 should be “immediately reviewed.”

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NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads, Total Tops 130

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NASA LOGOEDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, and a commercial parabolic aircraft. These flights provide cutting-edge technologies with a valuable platform to conduct tests, before they enter use in the harsh environment of space.

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NASA Looks to Extend SpaceX, Orbital Commercial Cargo Contracts for Two Year

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Cygnus_CRS1_onarm
NASA intends to extend its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts with Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX by up to two years, according to a pre-solicitation notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The notice said the extensions until December 2017 would be done at no cost to the government. NASA awarded both contracts in December 2008 for cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) with not to exceed values of $3.1 billion apiece.

The contract extensions, which would be done one year at a time, would involve a delay in the new round of commercial cargo contracts, known as CRS2, which NASA intends to open for competitive bidding.

“This extension is expected to be executed one year at a time so that if a new provider competing for the above mentioned CRS2 contract can demonstrate their ability to deliver cargo early then it would be possible to award CRS2 contracts such that the second year of the extension would not be required,” the notice states.

Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation are all developing orbital spacecraft that could compete to fly cargo to the space station.  All of the spacecraft are several years from flying.

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Complete Space System Milestones

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nasa_commercial_crew_spacesuit
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s commercial space partners continue to meet milestones under agreements with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), as they move forward in their development of spacecraft and rockets that will transport humans to destinations in low-Earth orbit.

The achievements in February are the latest development in a cycle that is seeing all four industry partners meet their milestones in their Commercial Crew Integrated Capability and Commercial Crew Development Round 2 agreements with the agency.

Blue Origin, The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Space Exploration Technology (SpaceX) are developing unique transportation systems and face challenging evaluations and tests in 2014. CCP’s engineering team is working closely with its partners as they develop the next generation of crewed spacecraft. Ultimately, NASA intends to certify and use commercial systems to fly astronauts from the United States to the International Space Station, and back.

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SpaceX Static Fires First Stage of Reusable Falcon 9

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Video Caption: SpaceX successfully test fired the first stage of F9R—an advanced prototype for the world’s first reusable rocket—in preparation for its first test flight in the coming weeks. Unlike airplanes, a rocket’s thrust increases with altitude; F9R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space.

The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year. Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) as shown here, which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like.

Falcon 9, Atlas V Launches Delayed Due to Range Problem

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Falcon 9 lifts off with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

The scheduled Sunday launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has been postponed due to problems on the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Test Range, officials said.

Reports indicate that there was a fire that has knocked out a radar system needed to track the flight. The Air Force is not able to repair the system in time.

The Falcon 9 will launch a Dragon cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. It is the third commercial cargo flight of 12 that SpaceX will conduct under a contract with NASA.

Earlier this week, ULA was forced to postpone the launch of an Atlas V rocket with a spy satellite aboard due to the same range problem.

No new dates have been set for either launch.

SpaceX Receives $4.2 Million in Early Integration Study Funds From USAF

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Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $4.25 million contract to SpaceX to perform “early integration studies of SpaceX’s launch vehicle Falcon 9 v1.1 and USAF space vehicles projected to launch as early as 2017.”

“The early integration studies are unique to each potential launch service provider and its own launch vehicle configuration,” according to the official notice from the Air Force. “SpaceX, as the sole owner and manufacturer of the Falcon 9 v1.1, possesses ‘unique capabilities’ for this requirement (studies) because the study is on SpaceX’s own unique launch vehicle. SpaceX possesses its own specific knowledge and resources of the launch vehicle it manufactures. With the unique capabilities, the study of the Falcon 9 v1.1 can only be satisfied by SpaceX.”

The contract award includes an option for an additional study.