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USAF Certifies Three Falcon 9 Flights

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A Falcon 9 carries a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

A Falcon 9 carries a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

An announcement from SpaceX:

The Air Force has certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch system as having conducted three successful flights, a prerequisite for companies seeking to win business from the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program.

Under Air Force standards, SpaceX is already qualified to compete for EELV missions, but SpaceX must also be certified by the Air Force before any contract can be awarded to the company. Meeting the criteria for successful flights is a key milestone in the certification process.

SpaceX expects to satisfy the remaining certification requirements later this year.

Planetary Society’s LightSail Spacecraft to Launch Aboard Falcon Heavy in 2016

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The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Calif. (Planetary Society PR) – The Planetary Society, the world’s largest and most influential space interest group, announces that its LightSail solar sail spacecraft will reach space on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2016. The announcement was made during a live webcast on July 9th.

“It’s fantastic that at last we have a launch date for this pioneering mission,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye The Science Guy. “When I was in engineering school, I read the book about solar sailing by my predecessor, Society co-founder Louis Friedman. But the dream of sailing on light alone goes back much further.”

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FAA Approves SpaceX Launch Complex in Texas

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Artist's conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

Artist’s conception of the proposed SpaceX commercial launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved SpaceX’s plan to build a spaceport south of Brownsville, Texas, to launch Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and suborbital rockets.

In its record of decision, the FAA said that while the environmentally preferable alternative would be to reject the application and having nothing constructed in the beachfront area, the option is not in keeping with the agency’s purpose.

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DiBello to Cape: Adapt — or Die!

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Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Space Florida President Frank DiBello

In an address to the National Space Club Florida Committee yesterday, Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello issued a start warning that Florida’s Space Coast risks irrelevancy if it doesn’t adapt to a rapidly commercializing industry.

DiBello said he expects Texas to announce within a week or two that SpaceX will build a privately operated pad near Brownsville for launches of commercial satellites.

DiBello said he was not angry at SpaceX, which will continue to launch government payloads from here and whose CEO, Elon Musk, was making a business decision about where he could best serve commercial customers.

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NASA Commercial Crew Partners Move Forward on Milestones

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CCiCap milestone completion status: Boeing, 18 of 20; SpaceX, 13 of 18; Sierra Nevada Corporation, 10 of 13.

CCiCap milestone completion status: Boeing, 18 of 20; SpaceX, 13 of 18; Sierra Nevada Corporation, 10 of 13.

NASA Commercial Crew Return On Investment Report
Issue No. 16 — July 2014

NASA’s industry partners continue to move forward with their Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) efforts, successfully completing milestones and working toward the culmination of their CCiCap Space Act Agreements. The Boeing Company is scheduled to complete its milestones later this summer. NASA has agreed to extend the terms of the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) agreements to March 2015 allowing for completion of work associated with remaining flight testing—SpaceX an in-flight abort test and SNC a free flight test of a Dream Chaser test vehicle.

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Iridium and SpaceX Successfully Complete Dispenser Qualification Tests

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Falcon 9 in flight with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 in flight with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

McLEAN, Va., July 3, 2014 (Iridium PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) and SpaceX today announced the successful completion of dispenser qualification testing for the Iridium NEXT constellation. The dispenser is the mission-unique assembly that holds the satellites during launch and manages the perfectly timed separation of each satellite from the rocket, placing each of the satellites into its proper orbit. The testing program, a key milestone in the Iridium NEXT constellation build, included four types of testing on the satellite dispenser: fit check, separation and shock testing, a modal survey, and static loads testing. Overall the tests ensure launch shock environment, mechanical form, fit and function, separation dynamics, fundamental frequency and structural integrity.

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ESA Weighs Ariane 6 Options as Major Satellite Operator Seeks Industry Overhaul, Price Cuts

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Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Space News reports that ESA is weighing two options for its next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle as Arianespace cuts prices in response to competition from SpaceX. Meanwhile, satellite fleet operator SES is putting pressure on Europe’s launch vehicle industry to quickly reform itself.

A European Space Agency bid-evaluation team is expected to deliver its judgment by July 5 on two different designs for a next-generation Ariane 6 rocket — one it has been examining for about a year, and another it only discovered June 18.

The ESA Tender Evaluation Board’s recommendation will weigh heavily in a debate among a half-dozen European governments most concerned with launch vehicle production. Ministers from France, Germany and Italy are scheduled to meet July 8 in Geneva, at the invitation of the Swiss government, to solidify their own views of which way to go on Ariane 6.

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Inmarsat Books SpaceX Launches

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Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

LONDON, July 2, 2014 (Inmarsat PR) – Inmarsat plc (LSE: ISAT.L), the leading provider of global mobile satellite services, today announced that it has selected SpaceX to provide launch services for its S-band satellite and up to two further Inmarsat missions. Under the terms of its agreement with SpaceX, Inmarsat expects to use the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, but will retain the possibility of using a Falcon 9 as an alternative, providing further launch flexibility.

Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s Chief Executive Officer said, “We believe that SpaceX has demonstrated tremendous successful progress in its launch capabilities and is now a fully-credible provider of vehicles to support geostationary missions.  We are delighted to be working with SpaceX for the launch of our S-band satellite and other potential future missions for Inmarsat.  In view of capacity constraints in the satellite launch market, Inmarsat believes that securing optionality today is an important business safeguard to mitigate future launch schedule risk.”

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USAF: SpaceX Filed Protest of Bulk Buy Too Late

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United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the second mission in just seven days with the lift off of an Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the second mission in just seven days with the lift off of an Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the lawsuit.

Space News reports that the U.S. Air Force says the court should dismiss SpaceX’s protest of its 36- rocket core bulk buy from United Launch Alliance because the company filed the appeal too late:

“The reason that it did not protest is obvious,” the Air Force said. “At the time the solicitation was issued, SpaceX had not completed the necessary certifying flights for its Falcon 9 rocket; it was very far from having a launch vehicle that could meet the agency’s requirements.”

The Air Force said SpaceX had a copy of the request for proposals at least 40 days before a block buy proposal was due.

SpaceX’s first challenge, the Air Force said, “was this protest, which SpaceX filed in April 2014 — two years after it first received a copy of the solicitation.”

The request came in a June 30 filing in the case by the USAF.

Commercial Crew Partners Continue Moving Toward Completion

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nasa_commercial_crew_spacesuit
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s aerospace industry partners are taking their designs and operational plans for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) through a series of comprehensive tests, evaluations and review boards this summer as they move through important milestones – all with an eye on launching people into orbit from American soil by 2017.

To meet milestones established in Space Act Agreements with NASA, the companies are completing specific assessments such as materials stress tests, engine firings and analysis, and system tests. The companies’ engineers use data gathered from these tests to refine the design, then NASA’s team uses the data to ensure the tests satisfy milestone objectives that provide confidence a spacecraft system or program is progressing toward its goals.

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