Orbit Logic Awarded AFRL/AFWERX Space Situational Awareness Planning & Analysis Contract

GREENBELT, MD (Orbit Logic PR) – Orbit Logic, a leading provider of planning and scheduling software, announced today that it has been awarded an AFWERX Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The award will enhance the Heimdall Fire Space Situational Awareness (SSA) planning solution. Heimdall Fire is an existing software solution consisting of Orbit Logic COTS software products configured for SSA observation planning.

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Space Weather Bill Passes Congress

The Sun sends out a constant stream of particles and energy, which drives a complex space weather system near Earth and can affect spacecraft and astronauts. NASA has chosen five new mission concept studies for further development to study various aspects of this dynamic system. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A bill to reorganize the nation’s response to space weather has passed both house of Congress and heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow Act (PROSwift) assigns roles to federal departments and establishes an interagency working group to coordinate their activities.

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DOD Report Spotlights Aggressive Chinese Military Buildup

WASHINGTON (Department of Defense PR) — The Department of Defense announces the release of its annual report on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” The congressionally mandated report serves as an authoritative assessment on military and security developments involving the PRC. 

This year’s report highlights the links between China’s national strategy and developments within China’s armed forces.

Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the strategy calls for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, including the transformation of the People’s Liberation Army into a “world-class” military.

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Ball Aerospace Selected for Space RCO Tactical Ground Command, Control and Communications

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 26, 2020 (Ball Aerospace PR) — Ball Aerospace, teamed with Booz Allen Hamilton, was awarded a contract by the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (SpRCO) to serve as the prime system integrator for the SpRCO Ground Command, Control and Communications (GC3) system. GC3 will integrate into and help enable the larger tactical command and control enterprise for the United States Space Force.

“The GC3 System Integrator program provides a great foundation to work with SpRCO and other space resiliency mission partners to develop and deliver advanced capabilities to support the warfighter,” said Mark Healy, vice president and general manager, National Defense, Ball Aerospace. “This mission aligns directly with the 2020 Defense Space Strategy to enable the Department of Defense (DoD) to defend the space domain.”

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USSPACECOM to Welcome New Command Senior Enlisted Leader

Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott H. Stalker (Credit: US Space Command)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Aug. 27, 2020 (US Space Command PR) — U.S. Marine Corps Master  Gunnery Sgt. Scott H. Stalker is set to assume responsibility of U.S. Space Command from U.S. Space Force Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman during an Aug. 28 ceremony.

The Department of Defense’s 11th combatant command is getting a new command senior enlisted leader eight days after U.S. Army Gen. James H. Dickinson assumed command from USSF Gen. John W. Raymond.

Stalker, a native of Lebanon, New Hampshire, previously served as the CSEL for U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency.

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Mike Griffin Sets Up Consulting Firm, Joins Rocket Lab Board

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fresh off a short-lived and rocky tenure overseeing the establishment of the Pentagon’s new Space Development Agency (SDA), former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has set up a consulting firm and joined Rocket Lab’s Board of Directors.

“We are honored to welcome Mike to Rocket Lab’s board of directors,” said Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck in a press release. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the civil, defense, and commercial space sectors that will be invaluable to our team as Rocket Lab continues to grow and meet the ever-evolving launch and space systems needs of the national security community and commercial sectors alike.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Electron Roll-Out Complete at New Wallops Island Launch Complex

Electron booster on the launch pad at Wallops Island. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Scheduled for Q3 2020, the mission will be Rocket Lab’s first launch from U.S. soil

LONG BEACH, Calif., April 29, 2020 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a space technology company and the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has rolled an Electron launch vehicle out to the Launch Complex 2 pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops, Virginia for the first time. The milestone is one of the final steps ahead of Rocket Lab’s first launch from Launch Complex 2 – a dedicated mission in partnership with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division. 

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