The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates the Department of Defense to undertaken a program to modernize the infrastructure and improve support services on the Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California. The measure, passed by Congress, awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
“The program….shall include investments to improve operations at the Eastern and Western Ranges that may benefit all users, to enhance the overall capabilities of ranges, to improve safety, and to reduce the long-term costs of operations and maintenance,” the bill reads.
The act also includes measures to improve processes across both ranges to “minimize the burden on launch providers” and “improvements in transparency, flexibility, and, responsiveness for launch scheduling.”
The NDAA allows the DOD to consult with current and anticipated users of the two ranges and to pursue partnerships if appropriate. The DOD is given 120 days after enactment of the act to submit a report on planned improvements to congressional defense committees.
The commanders of the U.S. Air Force space wings that run the ranges have said they need more funding to maintain and upgrade aging infrastructure as they cope with a surge in commercial launches. The failure of Congress to pass budgets in time for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and automatic budgets mandated under sequestration have also hindered long-term planning, the commanders said.
The Eastern Range, which handles launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, was recently closed for two weeks to tackle 85 high-priority maintenance projects. The western range at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California uses radar systems that were built in the 1950’s.
America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.
The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.
The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.
Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.
“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.
The U.S. Air Force recently issued a request for proposals that will fund the development of new launch systems to replace ULA’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — A robot stretches its limbs and systematically climbs across a tubular structure, using the truss’s crossbars as handholds; one limb after another, it reaches and grabs the next handhold while releasing the ones behind it. Pulling itself along, it inspects the structure it just assembled in space.
The U.S. Air Force has awarded an additional $40.8 million to SpaceX for the development of its Raptor rocket engine.
The funding, awarded under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, involves the extension of a $33.7 million contract originally awarded in January. SpaceX agreed to spend $67.3 million under the jointly funded program under the original contract.
The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)[/caption]The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $20 million contract to ATK Launch Systems for “advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology.”
The award is an “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, hybrid cost-plus-fixed fee and firm-fixed-price contract for advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology. This contract provides a contract vehicle the Air Force Research Laboratory, aerospace systems, and rocket propulsion division can use to establish task orders to advance solid rocket motor technologies and address technical needs for next-generation strategic, tactical, and spacecraft propulsion systems,” according to the contract announcement.
“Work will be performed in Corinne, Utah, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 16, 2022,” the announcement states. “This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with two offers received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $650,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.”
The U.S. Air Force issued a request for proposals (RFP) last Thursday for a new launch vehicle to handle national security space (NSS) requirements.
“The goal of the EELV acquisition strategy is to leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers that also meet NSS requirements, including the launch of the heaviest and most complex payloads,” the proposal states.
“The Launch Service Agreements (LSAs) facilitate development of at least three EELV Launch System prototypes as early as possible, allowing those launch systems to mature prior to a future selection of two NSS launch service providers for Phase 2 launch service procurements, starting in FY20,” the proposal adds. (more…)
PALO ALTO, Calif. — SSL, a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced it was selected by Innoflight, Inc., a veteran-owned business specializing in electronics systems for Defense & Aerospace, to provide a high fidelity simulation environment for testing the security of hosted payloads on commercial satellites. The capability, which is being developed for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) as part of its Secure IP Payload Accommodation Demonstration Project, will enable SMC to demonstrate cybersecure payload hosting scenarios, concepts of operation, and cybersecurity controls.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) — Several of the Air Force’s space commanders spoke on a panel about the significance of Air Force space operations and its undeniable importance to national defense during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 19, 2017.
The Air Force is the lead service for space and has the vast majority of the Defense Department’s space systems, personnel and budget with 36,000 Airmen at 134 different locations. (more…)
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) says that his leadership efforts in Congress on space issues qualifies him to serve as NASA administrator.
“For three terms in Congress, have led comprehensive, bipartisan, space reforms with the objective of preserving America’s preeminence and global leadership in space,” Bridenstine stated in a notarized document submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“These efforts have led me to a deep understanding of the complex challenges NASA will face bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision for both exploration and science,” he added. “Traditional and new space companies are both critical to accelerating America’s space renaissance.”
In the document, which queried Bridenstine on his views and qualifications for NASA’s top job, the congressman listed NASA’s top three challenges as: (more…)
A Falcon 9 launched the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the fifth launch of an X-37 vehicle and the first one by SpaceX’s booster. The first stage of the Falcon 9 successfully touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the 16th recovery of a first stage.
Video Caption: An Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket has successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s launch pad 46 at 06:04 UTC, August 26th 2017. This was the 6th launch and 1st from Cape Canaveral. The rocket carried the ORS-5 payload for the US Air Force.
DULLES, Va., 26 August 2017 (Orbital ATK PR)– Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced its Minotaur IV space launch vehicle successfully launched and placed into orbit the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) spacecraft on August 26, 2017.
The Minotaur IV launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46), which is operated under license by Space Florida. This mission marks the 26th consecutive successful launch for the company’s Minotaur product line.