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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Space Development Agency Seeks Next-Gen Architecture in First RFI

Figure 1: Notional architecture from SDA 60-day study. (Credit: Space Development Agency)

Space Development Agency
Next-Generation Space Architecture
Request for Information
SDA-SN-19-0001
July 1, 2019
[Full Solicitation]

SDA requests information from industry related to satellite bus, payload, applique, and launch concepts that can contribute to an agile, responsive next-generation space architecture. SDA has developed a notional suite of capabilities, as depicted in Figure 1, to include multiple constellations (or “layers”) addressing the eight priorities listed above. Each layer provides an integral and integrated capability to the overall architecture.

The SDA’s notional architecture is predicated on the availability of a ubiquitous data and communications transport layer and assumes the use of small, mass-produced satellites (50-500 kg) and associated payload hardware and software. The SDA is considering the use of transport layer spacecraft as substrates for other layers, allowing for the integration of appropriate payloads based on each layer’s needs.

Seven layers are proposed:

  1. Space Transport Layer: Global, persistent, low-latency data and communications proliferated “mesh” network to provide 24×7 global communications.
  2. Tracking Layer: Indications, warning, targeting, and tracking of advanced missile threats.
  3. Custody Layer: 24×7, all-weather custody of all identified time-critical targets.
  4. Deterrence Layer: Space Situational Awareness (SSA) of, and rapid access to, the cislunar volume.
  5. Navigation Layer: Alternate Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) for GPS-denied environments.
  6. Battle Management Layer: Distributed, artificial intelligence-enabled Battle Management Command, Control and Communications (BMC3), to include self-tasking, self-prioritization (for collection), on-board processing, and dissemination, supporting delivery of perishable space sensor-derived data products directly to tactical users.
  7. Support Layer: Mass-producible ground command and control capabilities, user terminals, and rapid-response launch services (small- to medium-class).

Proposed concepts should align to one or more of the layers described above. SDA prefers comprehensive solutions that include open architectures (e.g., buses that support multiple payloads and software appliques, and payloads/software capable of integration aboard multiple buses) and leverage commercial capabilities, existing or planned.











Paragon Selected for 3 NASA Small Business Awards

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected three projects from Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, Arizona for funding in its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards. Each contract is worth a maximum of $125,000 over six months.

Paragon’s Separation Technology of On-Orbit Liquid and Excrement (STOOLE) project is pretty much what it sounds like: an improved system for recycling human waste in space.

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SpinLaunch Secures First Contract

Illustration depicting SpinLaunch orbital vehicle inside the electric kinetic launcher (Credit: SpinLaunch)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (SpinLaunch PR)–Jonathan Yaney, founder and CEO of SpinLaunch, has announced that the company has been awarded a responsive launch prototype contract from the Department of Defense (DOD), facilitated by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

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NASA Sets Coverage for Falcon Heavy Launch on Monday

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA Television coverage is scheduled for an upcoming prelaunch activity and first nighttime launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be carrying four agency technology missions to help improve future spacecraft design and performance.

The launch window for the Falcon Heavy opens at 11:30 p.m. EDT Monday, June 24, from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch, as well as a live technology show, will air NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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NASA Prepares to Launch Twin Satellites to Study Signal Disruption From Space

This visualization shows the relative density of certain particles in Earth’s ionosphere. The E-TBEx CubeSats will explore how signals from satellites to Earth can be disrupted as they pass through this region. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s twin E-TBEx CubeSats — short for Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment — are scheduled to launch in June 2019 aboard the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 launch. The launch includes a total of 24 satellites from government and research institutions. They will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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NASA Selects In-Space and Advanced 3-D Manufacturing Technologies for Funding

NASA is continuing to encourage the use of 3-D manufacturing technologies for use on Earth and in space through the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

In addition to funding two projects by Made in Space focused on glass alloys and structures for advanced interferometery missions, the space agency also selected six other additive manufacturing proposals for funding under SBIR Phase II.

The awards, which are worth up to $750,000 for as long as two years, are focused on expanding additive manufacturing (AM) to include the use of stronger plastics and metals as well plastics recycling and improving production on Earth. One company is developing the ability to print next-generation electronics aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Several of the proposals are developing materials and technologies that would be used in a new additive manufacturing system called FabLab that NASA will launch to the station. The new printer would use multiple materials instead of just plastic feed stock to print parts and tools.

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House Appropriators on Space Force, SDA: Meh!


SpaceNews
reports that House Appropriators have included no money for the Trump Administration’s Space Force in a bill it is scheduled to mark up on Tuesday. Legislators are also seeking more information about the Space Development Agency.

The draft report accompanying the committee’s proposed fiscal year 2020 defense spending bill notes that the decision to not back the $72 million request should not be read as a complete rejection of the idea of establishing a Space Force.

“The Committee recommendation does not fully fund the request to establish the proposed Space Force,” says the draft report obtained by SpaceNews. “The Committee makes this decision without prejudice and includes funds for the Department to examine and refine alternative organizational options that will streamline the management and decision-making process and minimize overhead cost and bureaucracy.”

[….]

Defense officials have said they estimate the Space Force will cost no more than $2 billion over five years but have not provided detailed analysis to back that up, according to congressional officials. The Senate Armed Services Committee has done due diligence and directed the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the future costs of the Space Force, U.S. Space Command and the Space Development Agency. The CBO in a report laid out a number of scenarios. On the Space Force, it projects costs significantly higher than $2 billion over five years. The Pentagon has challenged those estimates.

[….]

On the Space Development Agency, the committee backs defense appropriators’ recommendations to seek more specific details on the SDA’s space projects. “While the Committee is generally supportive of the concept of the Space Development Agency, the Committee is concerned that this effort may create a parallel space program that will overlap and duplicate existing programs and missions in the Air Force.”











Three USAF Experimental Satellites Launched Aboard Electron Rocket

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The U.S. Air Force and its mission partners has successfully launched three Department of Defense research and development satellites on Huntington Beach-based Rocket Lab USA’s Electron rocket from Mahia, New Zealand at 11:00 p.m. PST, May 4, 2019 and  6:00 p.m. NZST May 5, 2019.

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Rocket Lab Plans First Night Launch on Saturday, SpaceX Scrubs Dragon Flight

 

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

Rocket Lab has completed the launch readiness review for Electron’s first night launch on Saturday.  The launch window for the flight, which will carry three technology demonstration satellites for the U.S. Department of Defense, opens at 2:00 a.m. EDT (0600 UTC/ 18:00 NZT).

SpaceX scrubbed the launch of a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station on Friday due to an electrical issue on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. There was also a helium leak involving the Falcon 9 booster.

The next launch opportunity is Saturday at 2:48 a.m. EDT (0648 UTC).











Company Blamed for Failed $704 Million NASA Missions Pays $46 Million in Fines

Glory satellite (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An Oregon manufacturer whose defective products NASA alleges caused the launch failures of two climate missions worth $704 million has agreed to pay more than $46 million to the space agency, the Department of Defense (DOD) and others it defrauded.

The Justice Department announced a plea bargain agreement of fraud charges against Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., formerly known as Sapa Profiles Inc. (SPI), and its corporate parent, Hydro Extrusion USA, LLC, formerly known as Sapa Extrusions Inc. (SEI).

The companies admitted to altering the results of tensile tests “designed to ensure the consistency and reliability of aluminum products it provided to U.S. government contractors and other customers,” the Justice Department said in a press release.

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ATLAS Space Operations Awarded Project with Space and Missile Systems Center and Defense Innovation

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., (Atlas Space Operations PR)–ATLAS Space Operations, Inc., a leading innovator in ground communications for the space industry, today announced an agreement to develop its LINKS platform with the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The competitively awarded rapid prototyping program will run for 12 months, and will deliver a complete satellite communications platform tailored to the Air Force’s Multi-Band Multi-Mission requirements, as outlined by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Range and Network Systems Division.

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Debate Rages Over Usefulness of Pentagon’s New Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

A debate has raged in the Pentagon over whether the new Space Development Agency will transform the acquisition of new systems, or merely unnecessarily duplicate existing capabilities within the Defense Department’s sprawling bureaucracy.

On one side of the argument are the agency’s champions, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Griffin oversees the new agency, which is run by Fred Kennedy.

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GAO: DOD Needs to Collect & Maintain Better Data on Space Acquisition Workforce

The Department of Defense (DOD) does not routinely monitor the size, mix, and allocation of the 8,000 personnel who are involved in space acquisition activities, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

[Full Report — PDF]

The audit found the DOD’s workforce data systems are not configured to identify personnel working on space acquisition activities across the department’s sprawling bureaucracy.

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Report: Pentagon Reviewing Elon Musk’s Security Clearance

Editor’s Note: The investigation might not be only about the pot smoking. Investigators could be examining unconfirmed published reports that say Musk has used cocaine, LSD and ecstasy. I stress these stories are unconfirmed, but they have been circulating for many months now. And Musk’s behavior over the past year has been erratic and even bizarre.