Investigators Find Cause of Rocket Failure at Kodiak

alaska_aerospace_corpArmy investigators have found the cause of a rocket failure last August that destroyed an experimental hypersonic test vehicle and caused significant damage to Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex.

“A review of prior launches has found this to be a one-of-a-kind incident that was unexpected,” spokesman John Cummings wrote in response to questions about what went wrong. He said “details of the investigation and findings are not releasable to the public,” though he declined to say why the report is being withheld and whether anyone was found to be at fault for the failure of the protective cover.

“The launch vehicle flight was terminated near the launch pad shortly after liftoff. The correct flight safety protocol and procedures were followed by all mission personnel. Before this launch configuration was used again, corrective action would have to be identified and implemented,” he said.

“The thermal protective cover is designed to regulate motor temperature prior to launch and remains in place until liftoff. Details of the failure review board findings are not releasable to the public,” he said.

The state estimated damages to the complex at $26 million to $29 million. State officials said they expect most of the cost to be covered by insurance.

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Tethers Unlimited Awarded U.S. Army SBIR Phase II CubeSat Contract

Tethers Unlimited’s SWIFT TacSATCOM radio system enables tiny CubeSats to communicate directly with standard handheld UHF radios used by soldiers in the field (Credit: TUI)
Tethers Unlimited’s SWIFT TacSATCOM radio system enables tiny CubeSats to communicate directly with standard handheld UHF radios used by soldiers in the field (Credit: TUI)

BOTHELL, WA, 7 November 2013 (TUI PR) – The Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has awarded Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to complete development of a communications system that will enable CubeSats to communicate directly with handheld radios used by Army troops.

TUI’s  “SWIFT TacSATCOM” system combines a frequency agile software defined radio with novel deployable antennas to enable these tiny, low power, low cost spacecraft to support soldiers in the field by providing real time access to mission critical data and communications.


Andrews Space Snags Contract for U.S. Army Imaging Nanosat

Seattle, WA, 31 January 2013 (Andrews Space PR) —
Andrews Space (Andrews) announced today that they have been funded by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command to design and deliver a Kestrel Eye Block 2 Earth imaging spacecraft as part of the Army’s Kestrel Eye program.

Under the current effort, known as Kestrel Eye Block 2, Andrews will develop, build and deliver an Earth imaging nanosatellite.  The spacecraft embodies a paradigm shift to lower-cost, higher persistence overhead reconnaissance capabilities. While not meant to replace traditional imaging assets, Kestrel Eye Block 2 seeks to augment the current approach to remote sensing by demonstrating the application of low-cost, commercial technologies to enable a new tier of reconnaissance capability.


America’s Rocket Renaissance

rutan_talkBy Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.

My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?

A lot, it turns out.


U.S. Army, NASA Working on Low-Cost Nanosat Launcher

The U.S. Army’s SWORDS rocket. (Credit: U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army is leading an effort to develop a dedicated launcher that would be capable of launching nano-satellites into precise orbits from almost any location at an ultra-low cost.

The program is called SWORDS, which stands for Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space. And NASA is a partner in the program, which expects to see an orbital test flight take place in the summer of 2013.