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.

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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.

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Update on Falcon 9 Failure Investigation

falcon9_debris
NASASpaceflight.com 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.

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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.

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Generation Orbit Awarded USAF SBIR Phase II Contract

Captive carry flight (Credit: Generation Orbit)
Captive carry flight (Credit: Generation Orbit)

ATLANTA (GO PR) — Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ) for continued development of the GOLauncher 1, a single-stage air launched liquid rocket vehicle designed to fly suppressed trajectories for hypersonic flight research applications.

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Air Force Completes Review of Launch Certification

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

by Tech. Sgt. Mike Slater
AFSPC Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Air Force Space Command has announced the completion of the Institute for Defense Analyses Broad Area Review of AFSPC launch vehicle certification. The independent review examined the process and provided specific recommendations to apply certification lessons learned. The intent of the review is to assure access to space for National Security Space missions.

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ULA’s Atlas V Launches USAF GPS Satellite

 A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the GPS IIF-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the GPS IIF-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., July 15, 2015 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the 10th Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 11:36 a.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-41. This is ULA’s sixth launch in 2015 and the 97th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

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Orbital ATK Wins USAF Launch Contract

USAF_Space_Missile_Systems_CenterThe U.S. Air Force has awarded a $23.6 million contract to Orbital ATK for the launch of its ORS-5 mission. The launch vehicle was not identified in the procurement announcement.

“The ORS-5 program will task Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Lincoln Laboratory to design and build an operational demonstration of the SensorSat satellite, which continuously scans the GEO belt from a low earth orbit,” the USAF said in a press release last year. “The ORS-5 program will demonstrate a low-cost small satellite launch capability and aspects of autonomous operations via the existing Multi-Mission Space Operations Center ground architecture.

“In addition, ORS-5 provides risk reduction for cutting-edge technologies to be transitioned to the Space-Based Space Surveillance system follow-on baseline program of record. With a projected start in 2016, the SBSS follow-on program will execute a technology transfer strategy, seeking opportunities for early industry involvement through requests for information and a near-term industry day.

“ORS-5 is expected to launch in 2017.”

The project is being done by the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space Office in partnership with SMC’s Space Superiority Systems Directorate and Advanced Systems and Development Directorate.

UPDATE:  The launch will be done by a Minotaur from Cape Canaveral.

USAF Issues Solicitation for RD-180 Replacement

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)
RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) — The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) here released a formal solicitation June 2, seeking proposals for shared public-private investments in rocket propulsion system (RPS) prototypes.

This solicitation is part of a comprehensive Air Force plan to transition off the Russian supplied RD-180 propulsion system used on the Atlas V rocket by investing in industry launch solutions with the ultimate goal to competitively procure launch services in a robust domestic launch market.

The Air Force will award a portfolio of investments on a rolling basis in up to four of industry’s RPS solutions. These investments, which will last approximately 12-18 months, will build the foundation for awarding separate investments in industry’s launch system solutions and secure launch service commitments from invested companies.

Concurrently, the Air Force will continue to competitively award launch services contracts to certified providers who demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify, and deliver launch systems and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver national security space satellites to orbit.

“The end goal of our strategy is to have two or more domestic, commercially viable launch providers that also meet national security space requirements,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, the Air Force’s program executive officer for space and the commander of SMC. “This is essential in order to solidify U.S. assured access to space, transition the (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) program away from strategic foreign reliance, and support the U.S. launch industry’s commercial viability in the global market.”

U.S. Air Force Certifies SpaceX Falcon 9 for Military Missions

The series of images shows the journey of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from its launch at 4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, to solar array deployment. (Credit:  NASA TV)
The series of images shows the journey of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from its launch at 4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, to solar array deployment. (Credit: NASA TV)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. (USAF PR) — Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, has announced the certification of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Falcon 9 Launch System for national security space missions.

SpaceX is now eligible for award of qualified national security space launch missions as one of two currently certified launch providers. The first upcoming opportunity for SpaceX to compete to provide launch services is projected to be in June when the Air Force releases a Request for Proposal for GPS III launch services.
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USAF Statement on Progress Anomaly

USAFVANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., April 28, 2015 (JFCC PR) — Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center made an initial observation of an anomaly with an International Space Station Progress resupply cargo craft at 12:04 a.m. (3:04 a.m. EDT), today.

The JSpOC immediately began tracking the event and initiated the appropriate reporting procedures.

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Progress Supply Ship Spinning Out of Control

Russia’s Progress 59 cargo ship has been spinning out of control since it was launched into orbit from Baikonur. Media reports indicate that the ship’s Kurs rendezvous antennas onboard the vehicle have failed to deploy. There are also questions about whether there has been pressurization of the Progress propulsion system.

Controllers have had difficulty in communicating with the cargo ship. They have managed to switch from a four orbit rendezvous plan to 34 orbits, which will give them time to troubleshoot the problems.