Final Request For Proposal Released for U.S. Air Force Launch Services Contract

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Air Force released a final Request for Proposal for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Services for the following payloads: National Reconnaissance Office Launch (NROL)-85, NROL-87, SILENTBARKER, Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO)-5, and Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-44. The final RFP was released on Jan. 31 with proposals due back to the Air Force on April 16 in accordance with the solicitation instructions. The contracts for these launch services are expected to be awarded in late 2018.


ULA’s USAF Launch Contract Worth $191 Million

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Air Force announced today the award of the third competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch service after more than a decade of sole-sourced contracts. United Launch Alliance was awarded a contract for Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) Launch Service. This is a firm-fixed price, standalone contract with a value of $191,141,581.


Air Force Releases Final RFP for New Rideshare Capability on Space Launch Missions

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF SMC PR) —The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) released a final request for proposal for the Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapters, or LDPE. The foundational technology for the LDPE is the EELV Secondary Payload Adapters, or ESPA, which is an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) initiative to host auxiliary payloads on primary spacecraft launch missions.

This SMC acquisition responds to the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) standard service policy that requires rideshare services on launch missions when feasible. The LDPE leverages propulsive ESPA technologies developed by AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. The product of this procurement represents significant progress toward AFSPC objectives to provide secondary payload rideshare opportunities on Department of Defense launch missions.

The DPE program will be a competitively bid acquisition for an EELV-compatible payload adapter with power, attitude control, and propulsive capabilities. The effort will include integration services for government-furnished payloads and one year of early orbit checkout and operations. The contract will have options for two additional LDPE systems that would be manifested on future AFSPC missions.

SMC, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force’s center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.


Moog Completes First Project Under USAF’s Booster Propulsion Maturation Program

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The first of ten contracts awarded under the Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) was recently completed. Moog Inc. successfully completed a “Non-Destructive Evaluation, Standards, and Testing” project, March 13. The company met all program objectives and completed all deliverables on time and on budget during the 15-month period of performance.

The Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the Booster Propulsion BAA contracts between November 2015 to January 2016 with the objective of maturing technologies and reducing risk in support of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The BAA was part of a comprehensive Air Force plan to transition off the Russian made RD-180 propulsion system used on the Atlas V rocket by investing in domestic industry launch solutions.


ULA Awards Upper Stage Engine Contract to XCOR

Engine hot fire (Credit: XCOR)
Engine hot fire (Credit: XCOR)

MIDLAND, Texas, March 9, 2016 (XCOR PR) — United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation’s premier launch services provider, has awarded XCOR Aerospace with a new contract through the United States Air Force to develop an upper stage propulsion system for Vulcan, ULA’s next-generation launch system.


USAF Awards Additional Booster Maturation Contracts

USAF_Space_Missile_Systems_CenterBoeing and Arctic Slope Technical Services (ASTS) are the latest awardees under a U.S. Air Force program to mature booster technology.

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMSC) awarded Boeing a contract worth $6,193,737.  ASTS received a contract worth $3,690,389.

The contract announcements do not specify the nature of the work involved. The contracts are part of a broad agency announcement focused on advanced materials and material manufacturing and development.

The overall goal is to fund technologies that will allow the nation to transition away from using Russian-produced RD-180 rocket engines on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster.

SMSC has awarded nine contracts worth nearly $27.6 million under the announcement.  The center expects to award up to $32 million in contracts.

Boeing$  6,193,737
Aerojet Rocketdyne$ 6,003,668
Northrop Grumman$ 5,465,705
Arctic Slope Technical Services$ 3,690,389
ATK Launch Systems Inc.$  3,125,810
Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering$    935,696
Tanner Research$    902,507
Moog Inc.$    728,337
Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering$    545,860

Air Force Certifies Upgraded Falcon 9 Booster

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. (SMSC PR) — Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space and Missile Systems Center commander, updated the certified baseline configuration of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launch System to Falcon 9 Upgrade, for use in National Security Space (NSS) missions. The baseline configuration of the Falcon 9 Launch System was updated to the Falcon 9 Upgrade on Jan. 25.


GAO: New USAF Launch Contract Approach Leaves Service Less Informed

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-55 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 at 5:49 a.m. PDT. (Credit: ULA)
An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-55 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 at 5:49 a.m. PDT. (Credit: ULA)

The USAF’s switch to awarding launch contracts competitively with firm-fixed-price contracts will leave the military service with far less information with which to assess the contractor’s performance and less flexibility in modifying launch schedules, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  [Full Report]


Alsbury to be Honored With School Academy

Mike Alsbury
Mike Alsbury

The Lancaster School District has decided to name a new science, technology, engineering, mathematics and arts academy after two Scaled Composites test pilots: Mike Alsbury and Fitzhugh “Fitz” Fulton.

The new school will be called the Fulton & Alsbury Academy of Arts and Engineering.

Alsbury was killed last year when SpaceShipTwo broke up in the sky near Koehn Lake. He joined Scaled Composites in 1998, logging more than 1,000 hours in the Proteus high-altitude aircraft.

Fulton flew experimental aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and NASA, testing the X-1, X-15, XB-70, and YF-12 A and YF-12C. Fulton, who passed away in February, finished his career at Scaled Composites.

USAF Makes Booster Award to Johns Hopkins University

USAF_Space_Missile_Systems_CenterLOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR)– The Space and Missile Systems Center released the first award notice on Nov. 4 under the Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation supporting technology maturation and risk reduction for rocket propulsion system development. This award is to Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering for Evaluation of Additively Manufactured Liquid Rocket Engine Cooling Channels in Representative Environments totaling $545,860.


Pentagon Denies ULA Request for Atlas V Engine Waiver

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-55 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 at 5:49 a.m. PDT. (Credit: ULA)
An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-55 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 at 5:49 a.m. PDT. (Credit: ULA)

On Friday, the Pentagon denied a request from United Launch Alliance for a waiver from a U.S. law that limits the use of the Russian-made RD-180 engine in the first stage of the company’s Atlas V rocket for military and reconnaissance launches.

ULA, the monopoly provider of such launches since its creation in 2006, has said it needs the waiver to compete against privately held Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, in a new U.S. Air Force competition for satellite launches. Bids are due for the competition by Nov. 16.

The U.S. Defense Department said it would continue to monitor the situation, and was looking at a range of options, including possible sole-source contract awards, to keep both companies in business and ensure more than one supplier was available in the event of failures.

Prompted by Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, U.S. lawmakers banned the use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military and spy satellite launches after 2019….

The ban affects nine of 29 engines that ULA ordered but had not paid for before Russia annexed Crimea. Bruno said five other engines approved for ULA’s use by Congress last year were needed for commercial or civil missions, and were unavailable for use in a bid for the new GPS launch.

Read the full story.

USAF Releases RFP for GPS III Launch

USAF_launch_systems_directorate_logoLOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Sept. 30, 2015 (USAF PR) — The Air Force released a final Request for Proposal (RFP) for Global Positioning System (GPS) III Launch Services, Sept. 30. Launch services include launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations for a GPS III mission scheduled to launch in 2018.  Proposals are due back to the Air Force no later than Nov. 16 in accordance with the solicitation instructions.

After evaluating proposals through a competitive, best-value source selection process, the Air Force will award a firm-fixed price contract that will provide the government with a total launch solution for the GPS III satellite.  The Air Force’s acquisition strategy for this solicitation achieves a balance between mission success, meeting operational needs, lowering launch costs, and reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions.


Update on Falcon 9 Failure Investigation

falcon9_debris has an update on the Falcon 9 failure investigation, which has included the examination of failure modes other than just a failed strut:

During the last month, a leading alternate path was examined (L2) – specific to a potential leak in a propellant feedline that runs from the upper tank, through the lower tank, to the engine. It is thought such a leak could explain the pressure increase in the system. However, following an investigation into this potential path, it was deemed not to be credible and subsequently removed from the fault tree.

The failed strut continues to be the leading candidate for the failure, backed up by additional testing that has been conducted at SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas.

With SpaceX utilizing the investigation period to conduct a “deep dive” review of all their hardware and processing paths, engineers reviewed the history of modifications to their evolving Falcon 9, including elements such as the optimization of the Second Stage that have been implemented over recent years….

Noticed during inspections of Falcon 9 hardware at SpaceX’s base in Hawthorne, California – engineers visually observed a small issue relating to weld points associated with a helium line – hardware classed as “inconel tubes” – via inspections (L2).

Although this issue was unlikely to have impacted on the vehicle during flight, a decision was taken to change them out on the F9-19, 21 and 22 vehicles. F9-21 and F9-22 were still without their engines at the time of the decision, expediting the changeout process.

The website also reports SpaceX might try to accomplish an additional four launches by the end of the year as part of its return to flight.

ULA, USAF Work to Improve Launch Processing & Scheduling

United Launch Alliance transports a five-story stack of rocket hardware approximately six miles from the Delta Operations Center to the Vertical Integration Facility utilizing Off-site Vertical Integration. (Credit: ULA)
United Launch Alliance transports a five-story stack of rocket hardware approximately six miles from the Delta Operations Center to the Vertical Integration Facility utilizing Off-site Vertical Integration. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 25, 2015 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the U.S. Air Force have demonstrated a commitment to innovation and continuous improvement through implementation of Off-site Vertical Integration (OVI) of several structural elements and the Centaur upper stage for the Atlas V launch vehicle. OVI significantly reduces the number of lifting operations performed at the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral, taking them off the critical path and allowing for reduced time between launches.  Relocating these operations to the Delta Operations Center (DOC), an indoor facility, also mitigates risk of weather-related processing delays.


Hyten Sees Commercial Smallsat Transformation, Calls on Industry to Lead

Gen. John E. Hyten
Gen. John E. Hyten

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

LOGAN, Ut. — U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten said the entrepreneurial space sector is leading the industry into its third great transformation, one that will fundamentally change the way the military acquires and uses its space assets to protect the nation.

Giving the opening keynote address at the 29th Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah, the commander of Air Force Space Command said the service will be going into smallsats “in a big way.” He added the Air Force would continue to fly the large satellite that have become its trademark.

Rather than leading the way on small satellites, Hyten said the military is looking to private industry to provide technology and solutions. After several false dawns, the industry is in a “magical time” when it is about to blossom.