Derek Tournear Named Director of DOD’s Space Development Agency

Derek Tournear

WASHINGTON (DoD PR) — The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced the selection of Dr. Derek Tournear as the first permanent director of the Space Development Agency. 

Established in March, the Space Development Agency is responsible for unifying and integrating the Department’s space development efforts, monitoring the Department’s threat-driven future space architecture, and accelerating fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantages in space. To achieve this mission, SDA is defining the National Defense Space Architecture—an integrated, coherent architecture capable of addressing the eight critical, yet unmet, priorities of the DoD Space Vision.

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Virgin Orbit Drops Out of DARPA Launch Challenge

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Citing more pressing launch commitments, Virgin Orbit has pulled out of the DARPA Launch Challenge. This withdrawal appears to leave the multi-million dollar rapid launch competition with precisely one unidentified competitor.

“We appreciate the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s leadership in constructing the Launch Challenge and we remain very supportive of the underlying goals of the competition,” Virgin Orbit said in a statement posted on Linkedin. “However, after comparing DARPA’s requested timeline with our commitments to our commercial and government customers, we have elected to withdraw from the competition.

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Saturn Satellite Networks to Acquire NovaWurks

Space News reports that Saturn Satellite Networks has reached a deal to acquire NovaWurks, a California company that builds modular satellites.

Saturn and Novawurks did not disclose the terms of the transaction. Tom Choi, Saturn co-founder and executive chairman, told SpaceNews by email that the deal is “well into seven figures in U.S. dollars.”

Saturn, a firm founded by former executives of fleet operator ABS of Bermuda to build Nationsat, a digital platform for small geostationary satellites, signed a definitive agreement to acquire NovaWurks, a company that has conducted demonstrations of its Hyper Integrated Satlets (HISats) including a 2018 spaceflight demonstration for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Saturn plans to acquire NovaWurks over three years for cash and stocks. Once the deal is completed, NovaWurks will become a wholly owned Saturn subsidiary and its shareholders will become minority shareholders of Saturn.

Through the acquisition, Saturn seeks to accelerate its Nationsat program.

BAE Systems Wins DARPA Contract to Develop Machine Learning Capabilities for Space Situational Awareness

ARLINGTON, Va. (BAE Systems PR) — BAE Systems has been awarded a Phase 2 contract to develop machine learning capabilities aimed to help the military gain better awareness of space scenarios for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The goal of DARPA’s Hallmark Tools, Capabilities, and Evaluation Methodology (Hallmark-TCEM) program is to not only develop and evaluate tools and capabilities that increase an operator’s understanding of space events, but also enhance the ability to select effective courses of action for any given situation.

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Mike Griffin Alienating Friends & Enemies Alike, Firing Scientists at New Pentagon Job

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.

In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).

Key personnel have departed as critics have attacked Griffin for what they view as his erratic management and decision making. In addition to SDA, he is in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

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Northrop Grumman Successfully Demonstrates Critical Space Capability for DARPA Mission in Record Time

R3D2 satellite being prepared for launch. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Rapid prototyping capabilities led DARPA’s R3D2 program to success

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., May 7, 2019 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully demonstrated rapid spacecraft development for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), with the Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2), which launched on March 28, 2019.

Northrop Grumman led a unique team of commercial suppliers to deliver a 150 kg small satellite from concept to orbit in 20 months. Traditional satellites of comparable complexity typically take many years to get to this stage.

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Virgin Orbit, Vector and Mystery Stealth Company Qualify for DARPA Launch Challenge

Credit: DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads. Three competitors successfully completed the qualification phase and will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks. Teams will receive notice of the first launch site a few weeks prior to launch and exact details on the payload and intended orbit just days before launch. DARPA is targeting both launches for early 2020.

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Rocket Lab Successfully Launches DARPA’s R3D2 Satellite

Electron lifts off with DARPA’s R3D2 satellite. (Credits: Kieran Fanning, Sam Tom)

The launch marks Rocket Lab’s 25th satellite deployed to orbit, continuing the company’s mission success heritage

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., March 28, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) – A Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 23:27, March 28th UTC (12:27, 29 March NZDT). The mission launched a prototype reflect array antenna to orbit for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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Rocket Lab Scrubs Electron Launch











Rocket Lab Electron Launch Set for Sunday











DARPA Prototype Reflectarray Antenna Offers High Performance in Small Package

MMA Design successfully completes deployment testing of its innovative high-compaction ratio reflectarray antenna in its Louisville, Colorado facilities. (Credit: DARPA)

Editor’s Note: The 13-day window for the launch of DARPA’s R3D2 satellite aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron booster from New Zealand opens no earlier than March 16.

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) is set for launch in mid-March to space-qualify a new type of membrane reflectarray antenna. The antenna, made of a tissue-thin Kapton membrane, packs tightly for stowage during launch and then will deploy to its full size of 2.25 meters in diameter once it reaches low Earth orbit.

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Griffin Taps DARPA Official to Head New Space Development Agency

Fred Kennedy

SpaceNews reports that Dr. Fred Kennedy, who is director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), has been tapped to run the Defense Department’s new Space Development Agency.

Kennedy was tapped for the post by Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin. The new agency will attempt to cut through Pentagon bureaucracy and red tape to develop and procure next generation military space systems more rapidly and less expensively.

According to his biography, Kennedy joined DARPA as TTO deputy director in January 2017. He had previously served as the senior policy advisor for national security space and aviation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
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