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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

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.

(more…)

DOD Submits U.S. Space Force Proposal

WASHINGTON (DOD PR) — The establishment of the U.S. Space Force will help ensure the United States is postured to deter aggression and outpace potential adversaries in order to protect and defend our national interests in the face of a changing space environment and growing threats.

Key Points

  • Fundamentally transform our approach to space
  • Establish the U.S. Space Force
  • Maximize warfighting capacity and advocacy for space
  • Outpace future threats
  • Defend our vital national interests in space

The Defense Department has forwarded to Congress a proposal to create the U.S. Space Force — the sixth branch of the armed forces, officials at the Pentagon said today.

(more…)

Text of Space Policy Directive-4: Establishment of the United States Space Force

Credit: Matt Wade

SUBJECT: Establishment of the United States Space Force

Section 1.  Introduction.  Space is integral to our way of life, our national security, and modern warfare.  Although United States space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of our potential adversaries, those potential adversaries are now advancing their space capabilities and actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis or conflict.  It is imperative that the United States adapt its national security organizations, policies, doctrine, and capabilities to deter aggression and protect our interests. Toward that end, the Department of Defense shall take actions under existing authority to marshal its space resources to deter and counter threats in space, and to develop a legislative proposal to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces within the Department of the Air Force. This is an important step toward a future military department for space.  Under this proposal, the United States Space Force would be authorized to organize, train, and equip military space forces of the United States to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.

(more…)

Pentagon Inspector General to Examine USAF Certification of Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off on Spaceflight SSO-A mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon’s inspector general is going to review the U.S. Air Force’s certification process for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

“Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” the inspector general said in a memo to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sent on Monday.

The Air Force’s certification of SpaceX in 2015 allowed the company take on military payloads, bringing competition to military space launches that were being handled solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between top defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. At the time, Musk said he was getting into the business in part to end a monopoly…

The memo to Wilson was signed by Michael Roark, deputy for intelligence and special program assessments. It didn’t give a reason for what prompted the evaluation. Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the inspector general, didn’t have an immediate comment as to what led to the evaluation.

Pentagon Plans to Stand Up Space Development Agency Under Mike Griffin Within 2 Months

Mike Griffin

Inside Defense reports the Pentagon plans to stand up a new Space Development Agency within the next two months.

The Pentagon plans to establish a new Space Development Agency under the authority of Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin by the end of March, according to a new memo from acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan. The Jan. 19 memo, obtained by Inside Defense , directs Griffin to develop a plan to create the new agency. The plan is due March 1 and the intent is to stand up the agency no later than March 29.

The agency’s purpose is to revitalize the Defense Department’s space systems by shortening research and development time and cutting through red tape.  Critics have questioned whether adding a new agency to the department’s bureaucracy would accomplish these goals.

Griffin previously served as administrator of NASA under President George W. Bush.

Wilson, Griffin at Odds Over How to Create Military Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

Space News reports that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who serves as undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, are at odds over how to create a new space development agency designed to transform how the military creates advanced space technologies.

In her memo, Wilson suggests the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office and that it should be geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command. She recommends using “existing structures designed and chartered to acquire capabilities rapidly, rather than establishing new structures.”

Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress.

In Wilson’s plan, the Space Development Agency and other acquisition organizations would transition to the new Department of the Space Force. She pointedly pushes back on the idea of having an assistant secretary of defense for space or a Space Development Agency that reports to that office. She argues that such a setup would create additional bureaucracy that would be removed from the operators who use and maintain the equipment.

The space development agency is part of an effort by the Trump Administration to establish an independent space force within the Department of Defense.

House Science Committee Approves the American Space SAFE Management Act

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved H.R.6226, the American Space Situational Awareness and Facilitation of Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act), introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). This bill will establish the Department of Commerce as the civilian agency to provide civil space situational awareness and traffic coordination.

Chairman Smith: “This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations. The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines. The creation of an open basic data system that combines information from American commercial and government actors, as well as international entities, will provide for the overall safe operation and management of space. This bill also better enables the Department of Defense to focus its resources on national security.”

(more…)

House Science Committee Approves American Space SAFE Management Act

Lamar Smith

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Science Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would transfer responsibility for space traffic management and situational awareness from the Defense Department to the Commerce Department over the objections of Democrats who said the measure rubber stamped a half-baked Trump Administration plan.

“This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations,” Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement. “The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines.”

The American Space Situational Awareness and Framework for Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act) is in line with Space Policy Directive 3, which President Donald Trump signed earlier this month. The program’s main goal is to prevent satellites from colliding with orbital debris and each other.

(more…)