ABL Space Systems Begins RS1 Stage Testing, Reaches $90 Million in Funding

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Aug. 3, 2020 (ABL Space Systems PR) — ABL Space Systems has begun stage testing of the RS1 small satellite launch vehicle, and has been awarded two US DoD contracts and secured a large round of funding with a combined value of over $90 million. ABL’s awards and funding are key to the rapid development of the RS1 launch vehicle and GS0 deployable launch system, with a demonstration launch slated for Q1 of 2021.

ABL’s DoD contracts, awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX, with participation from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, total $44.5 million over three years. Additionally, ABL has secured $49 million of financing led by Ethan Batraski at Venrock with participation from New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital, and Lockheed Martin Ventures. The recent round closed on March 31st, and fully funds ABL through a three launch demonstration campaign in 2021.

(more…)

UK, US Militaries Launch £800,000 International Space Pitch Day

LONDON, 22 July 2020 (UK Government PR) — Start-up tech companies and inventors will get the chance to pitch directly to UK and US military leaders for the $1-million investment to fast-track their ideas for cutting-edge Space innovations.

International Space Pitch Day was launched today by UK Director Space Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth.

International Space Pitch Day is a joint UK-US initiative that aims to find, fund and fast-track innovation and technology that gives advantage to military personnel and operations in the space domain.

(more…)

U.S. Air Force Introduces Arctic Strategy

Sample of Arctic region military facilities. (Credit: U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett unveiled the new, comprehensive  Department of the Air Force Arctic Strategy, July 21.

The strategy outlines the Department’s unique regional role and efforts to optimize Air and Space Force  capabilities throughout the region in support of the National Defense Strategy.

Download: Department of the Air Force Arctic Strategy

(more…)

NASA’s Next Laser Communications Demo Installed, Integrated on Spacecraft

Northrop Grumman technicians in front of the LCRD payload fully installed and integrated on the Space Test Program Satellite (STPSat-6). (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On July 16, 2020, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload was installed and integrated on the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) in preparation for a 2021 launch.

As an experimental payload, LCRD will demonstrate the robust capabilities of laser communications, which can provide significant benefits to missions, including bandwidth increases of 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.

Prior to spacecraft integration, the LCRD payload went through several tests and blanket installations at Northrop Grumman’s integration and test facility in Dulles, Virginia. While LCRD underwent testing, Northrop Grumman technicians also prepared the spacecraft for LCRD’s integration.

Now that the two components have been fully integrated, they will undergo environmental testing and end-to-end compatibility testing to ensure the spacecraft and payload can properly communicate with one another.

LCRD will be NASA’s first two-way optical relay, sending and receiving data from missions in space to mission control on Earth. LCRD is paving the way for future optical communications missions, which could use LCRD to relay their data to the ground.

In 2022, the Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T), hosted on the International Space Station, will be the first LCRD demonstration from low-Earth orbit.

LCRD was built by Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before being shipped to the Northrop Grumman facility in January 2020. LCRD is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and managed by NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office.

Military Smallsat Launch Contracts Withdrawn, Future Remains Uncertain

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

Easy come, uneasy go.

Last month, the Department of Defense announced it would award two rideshare launch contracts apiece to Aevum, Astra, Rocket Lab, Space Vector, X-BOW and Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary VOX Space.

Earlier this month, however, the contract awards were withdrawn so the $116 million in funding could be used for other priorities. The money came from the Defense Production Act, which is designed to help companies struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

C4ISRnet quotes Will Roper, Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, as saying the contracts could be awarded again.

“My hope is that whenever there’s new [Defense Production Act] Title 3 funding or when resource frees up due to other efforts not executing as planned, that those [contracts] are the first to go back into the hopper,” Roper told reporters Tuesday.

“If I were asked today to put in one new Title 3 initiative, it’s small launch because I think it’s going to be an amazing industry base for this country, and if properly influenced, my military mission can be highly disruptive in future war fighting, especially if satellites can be put up in a very responsive way that changes the calculus for holding space assets at risk.”

Of the six companies, only Rocket Lab has launched satellites into orbit. Astra has failed in several launch attempts. The maiden flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne failed in late May.

Aevum, Space Vector and X-BOW have not made any orbital launch attempts.

Sierra Nevada Selected by DoD to Design, Develop Unmanned Orbital Outpost Prototype

Orbital Outpost (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Proposed Design Leverages Existing Commercial Tech to Achieve Savings in Cost, Schedule

SPARKS, Nev., July 14, 2020 (Sierra Nevada PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, was awarded a contract to repurpose SNC’s Shooting Star transport vehicle as a proposed commercial solution for an Unmanned Orbital Outpost – essentially a scalable, autonomous space station for experiments and logistics demonstrations – by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). SNC’s Shooting Star transport vehicle serves as the core structure for the proposed design.

(more…)

DoD Awards $15 Million Contract to LeoLabs

WASHINGTON (Defense Department PR) — As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense entered into a $15 million agreement with LeoLabs, Inc. to ensure the continued viability of space surveillance capability through the operation and maintenance of a world-wide highly capable phased-array radar network.

The ability to surveil and analyze spacecraft in low earth orbit is essential to national defense. LeoLabs, Inc. is the only domestic commercial supplier with demonstrated capability in this critical area.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this DPA Title III investment will offset direct workforce and financial distress brought about by the coronavirus pandemic to a sole-source capability within the defense industrial base and ensure resultant critical capabilities are retained within the U.S.

LeoLabs, Inc. is based in Menlo Park, California, with operating locations throughout the United States.

Griffin, Porter to Depart Defense Department

Mike Griffin

Defense Department Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and his deputy, Lisa Porter, have resigned from their posts effective June 10 to jointly pursue an unidentified opportunity in the private sector, Breaking Defense reports.

Griffin, who previously served as NASA administrator, was brought on board in February 2019 to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming research, development and procurement systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA) and other measures.

(more…)

SMC Announces Plan to Award Contracts for 12 Rideshare Launches to 6 Companies

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

In an effort to support its industrial based during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has announced its intention to award 12 small satellite rideshare launches to six companies.

The awards will be made to:

  • Aevum
  • Astra
  • Rocket Lab USA
  • Space Vector
  • VOX Space
  • X-Bow.
(more…)

U.S. Defense Space Strategy

Fact Sheet
June 2020

The Defense Space Strategy (DSS) identifies how DoD will advance spacepower to enable the Department to compete, deter, and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

– Unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space is vital to our Nation’s security, prosperity, and scientific achievement. Ensuring the availability of space-based capabilities is fundamental to establishing and maintaining military superiority across all domains and to advancing U.S. and global security and economic prosperity.

(more…)

DoD Releases Defense Space Strategy

ARLINGTON, Va. — Today the Secretary for Defense released the Defense Space Strategy, which identifies how Department of Defense will advance space power to be able to compete, deter, and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

“The Defense Space Strategy is the next step to ensure space superiority and to secure the Nation’s vital interests in space now and in the future,” said Secretary of Defense, Mark T. Esper. “We desire a secure, stable, and accessible space domain that underpins our Nation’s security, prosperity, and scientific achievement. However, our adversaries have made space a warfighting domain and we have to implement enterprise-wide changes to policies, strategies, operations, investments, capabilities, and expertise for this new strategic environment. This strategy identifies a phased approach on how we are going to achieve the desired conditions in space over the next 10 years.”

(more…)

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Initiates Section 232 Investigation into Imports of Vanadium

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has initiated an investigation into whether the present quantities or circumstances of vanadium imports into the United States threaten to impair the national security.

This decision follows review of the petition filed by domestic producers, AMG Vanadium LLC (Cambridge, OH), and U.S. Vanadium LLC (Hot Springs, AR), on November 19, 2019, requesting that the Department of Commerce launch an investigation into vanadium imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended.

(more…)

Report: Costs of Creating a Space National Guard Would Be High

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It would cost from $100 million to $490 million annually to operate a Space National Guard to serve as a reserve for the newly established U.S. Space Force, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The Space Force is currently authorized to operate with active-duty personnel only. A Space National Guard would be a reserve force that would be called up as needed to provide additional resources.

(more…)

Trump Administration Formally Asks FCC to Reconsider Ligado Decision

The Trump Administration has formally requested that the Federal Communications Commission reconsider its approval to Ligado to construct a nationwide mobile broadband network that it says “will cause irreparable harms to federal government users of the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) filed the appeal to rescind the approval on behalf of the Trump Administration, particularly the departments of Defense (DOD) and Transportation (DOT).

(more…)

Northrop Grumman Wins $2.37 Billion Contract for Missile Warning Satellites

The U.S. Space Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $2.375 million contract to develop two Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) missile warning satellites.

The award is a modification to a $47 million contract to analyze system and payload requirements for the two polar orbiting satellites.

“This modification adds Phase One for design/development, critical path flight hardware procurement, and risk reduction efforts leading to a critical design review to the basic contract,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

“Fiscal 2020 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $70,500,000 are being obligated at the time of award,” Total cumulative face value of the contract is $2,419,295,532,” the statement added.

Northrop Grumman will perform the work in Redondo Beach, Calif. Work is expected to be completed by December 2025.