Virgin Orbit to Launch Again by End of Year

LauncherOne (Credit: Mojave)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Coming off flawless back-to-back launches, the Virgin Orbit team has settled into a steady flight preparation rhythm with LauncherOne. [Earlier today], the fully assembled rocket that will carry our next customers’ satellites to space has left our rocket factory in Long Beach and headed up to the bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port that serves as all the spaceport we need. Already, the rocket has been mated to the customized 747 that serves as our flying launch pad, mobile mission control, and fully re-usable first stage all at once.

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ULA to Launch Landsat 9 Satellite on Monday from Vandenberg

Landsat 9 (Credit: NASA)

VANDERBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (ULA Mission Update) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the Landsat 9 mission for NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The mission is planned to lift off on Mon., Sept. 27 at 11:11 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. 

Live broadcast coverage of launch will begin at 10:30 a.m. PDT on Sept. 27 and will broadcast live on NASA TV. Live launch updates and webcast available at: www.ulalaunch.com

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Xplore Receives $2 Million Contract from NSIC to Accelerate Xcraft Platform Development

Xcraft (Credit: Xplore)

REDMOND, Wash., September 21, 2021 (Xplore PR) — Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a Service, today announced it has received a $2M contract from National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) within the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) of the Department of Defense (DoD). This funding will accelerate the development of the Xcraft spacecraft platform, culminating with launch in 2023.

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SMC Partnering with Astra for Upcoming USSF Launch

Rocket 3.1 after liftoff from Kodiak Island in Alaska. (Credit: Astra)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) — The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center will partner with Astra, a wholly-owned U.S. company based in Alameda, California, to perform a demonstration launch for the Department of Defense from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska later this month.  

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Rocket Lab’s Electron Launches U.S. Military Satellite in Successful Return to Flight

Electron engine firing (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MAHIA PENINSULA, New Zealand — Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched an U.S. Space Force satellite on Thursday in a successful return to flight for the small-satellite booster after a launch failure in May.

The booster lifted off with the USSF’s Monolith technology technology demonstration satellite. Deployment from the booster’s kick stage occurred less than an hour after liftoff from Rocket Lab’s facility on the Mahia Peninsula.

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Virgin Orbit Updates Schedule for Next Week’s Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team is excited to share an update on timing for our upcoming mission, Tubular Bells: Part One!  

When

With wet dress rehearsal successfully completed, our team is proceeding through the final routine items on our pre-flight checklist. We’re coordinating with our stakeholders to identify the final preferred targets for launch, with an eye on June 30th or the early days of July.

We will only proceed with the mission if all conditions for launch are nominal. If for some reason the launch is delayed, we have backup windows extending through July.

Where

Our carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl will take off from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will travel approximately 1 hour out to sea before releasing the rocket just off the Pacific coast.

Mission Manifest

A total of 7 satellites will fly on LauncherOne for Tubular Bells: Part One. The full list of customers onboard this mission includes:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-27VPA, was awarded to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.  
  • The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ first military satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by Innovative Solutions in Space.
  • SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation.

How to Watch

For live updates as the flight progresses, please tune into our public livestream, which will be available on our YouTube. Alternatively, you can follow along with our live-tweets on Twitter (@VirginOrbit).

United States Space Force Partnering with VOX Space for First DoD Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) The United States Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center has partnered with VOX Space, a US-incorporated, wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, to launch multiple Department of Defense satellites on a commercial rideshare mission from the Mojave Air and Space Port, California. The launch is currently scheduled for June 2021.

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ABL Space Wins Fourth Department of Defense Contract

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., May 17, 2021 (ABL Space PR) — ABL Space Systems announced its fourth contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). ABL was awarded “Responsive Launch II” by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a DoD organization that aims to strengthen U.S. national security by accelerating the adoption of commercial technology across the military and growing the national security innovation base. This award builds on ABL’s growing portfolio with the Department, which includes over $50M+ in active contracts.

Responsive Launch II is a multilateral effort between various DoD launch stakeholders, including DIU, the Space and Missile Systems Center Rocket Systems Launch Program, and the DoD Space Test Program. Within this Area of Interest, DIU sought solutions that increased flexibility to place payloads in their “mission-designated orbits” with minimal delay. This capability is key to achieving “responsive space access, mobility, and logistics” as outlined by the United States Space Force.

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Virgin Orbit to Launch Again in June

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit is planning its third launch of small satellites for sometime in June. The Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California and drop the LauncherOne booster over the Pacific Ocean.

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Department of Defense Awards Relativity Space New Responsive Launch Contract

Rendering of Terran 1 rocket luanching from potential future Vandenberg launch site. (Credit: Relativity Space)

LOS ANGELES (Relativity Space PR) — Relativity Space announced today that it has been awarded its first orbital launch contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), facilitated by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). This contract was awarded as a Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Launch Enterprise follow-up effort to the DoD Space Test Program (STP) Rapid Agile Launch Initiative (RALI) to identify capable commercial solutions for low-cost, responsive access to space “as a service” using launch systems with capacity between 450-1,200 kg to low-Earth orbit (LEO). Relativity’s entirely 3D-printed launch vehicle, Terran 1, meets the DoD’s needs for disruptive launch solutions to orbit.

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BlackSky Announces Next Generation Dual Payload Satellite Architecture to Deliver High Resolution and Nighttime Imaging Capabilities

HERNDON, Va. , September 24, 2020 (BlackSky PR) – BlackSky, a leading provider of global monitoring services, geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery, announced today the next phase of expansion of its high-revisit commercial satellite constellation with the unveiling of its next generation, Gen-3, satellite architecture.

In addition, the company also announced it has conducted the preliminary design review of its Gen-3 satellite design for the U.S. Army Tactical GEOINT (TACGEO) prototype program as part of a multi-year contract with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). 

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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.

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DIU Awards Antenna Contract to Isotropic Systems for Trial Optical Beamforming Technology

READING, UK, 18 May 2020 (Isotropic Systems PR) – Isotropic Systems, a leading developer of transformational broadband terminal technologies, today announced an antenna evaluation and development contract with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to test the ability of its patented multi-beam antennas to unlock high-powered bandwidth aboard next-gen Naval vessels at sea.

As the U.S. Navy expands the size and communications capabilities of its global fleet, the DIU is reviewing Isotropic Systems’ patented beamforming antenna technologies and circuits as an enabler to fuse multi-band, multi-orbit commercial and military capacity to deliver intelligence data at the tactical edge over a single platform.

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China Making Aggressive Moves to Dominate Commercial Space Sector

China satellite launch

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s growing commercial space industry. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using aggressive state-backed financing to capture increasing shares of the commercial launch and satellite markets, making it more difficult for American companies to compete and threatening to hollow out the U.S. industrial base.

China is also leverage “military-civil” fusion to create a burgeoning commercial space sector by providing substantial state support. Nearly 90 new space companies have been created since 2014, most of which enjoy the support of the Chinese military, defense industrial base, or state-owned research and development institutions.

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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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