America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.
The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.
Virgin Orbit has received a Department of Defense (DOD) launch contract for its LauncherOne booster, the company announced this week.
“Their Space Test Program will fly some technology development payloads on our rocket as early as January 2019,” the company announced on Twitter.
LauncherOne will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner. The first flight test is expected to occur in 2018.
The contract, which came through the VOX Space subsidiary that handles government work, came through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).
“We provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And we do so quickly, usually in under 90 days,” according to DIUx’s website. “Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.”
DIUx has also provided capital to two other space companies: Capella Space, a satellite company that uses synthetic aperture radar to provide Earth imagery that is based on Palo Alto, Calif.; and Orbital Insight, which provides geospatial data analytics that is based in Moutain View, Calif.
MOJAVE, Calif. – Troubled XCOR Aerospace, a pioneer in reusable rocket engine technology, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court on Wednesday, according to court documents.
The filing will lead to the liquidation of the 18-year old company, whose engine technology was designed to power the two-person Lynx suborbital space plane XCOR was building. The vehicle, which was designed to take off and land on a runway, was only partially completed before most work on it stopped last year.
Solid Rocket Motors: DOD and Industry Are Addressing Challenges to Minimize Supply Concerns Government Accountability Office October 2017 GAO-18-45 [Full Report]
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD relies on a multi-tiered supply chain to provide SRMs, the propulsion systems behind the various missile systems that provide defense capabilities to meet U.S. national security objectives. The SRM industrial base includes manufacturers that turn to an extensive network of suppliers that provide the raw materials, components, and subsystems needed to build SRMs. DOD is responsible for developing a strategy for the national industrial base that ensures that defense contractors and their suppliers are capable of providing the goods and services needed to achieve national security objectives.
President Donald Trump has nominated former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to serve as principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.
Griffin, who led the space agency from 2005 to 2009, was most recently chairman and CEO of the Schafer Corporation, a provider of scientific, engineering, and technical services and products in the national security sector.
In his new position, Griffin will serve as the principal staff assistant and advisor to the secretary of Defense and deputy secretary of Defense for all matters concerning acquisition, technology, and logistics.
During his stint at NASA, Griffin established the architecture for space shuttle replacement and human return to the Moon and initiated the first development of commercial cargo delivery service to Earth orbit in the agency’s history.
He is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the AIAA Space Systems Medal, and the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal.
Dr. Griffin is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, the Catholic University of America, the University of Maryland, the University of Southern California, Loyola College; and George Washington University.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) says that his leadership efforts in Congress on space issues qualifies him to serve as NASA administrator.
“For three terms in Congress, have led comprehensive, bipartisan, space reforms with the objective of preserving America’s preeminence and global leadership in space,” Bridenstine stated in a notarized document submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“These efforts have led me to a deep understanding of the complex challenges NASA will face bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision for both exploration and science,” he added. “Traditional and new space companies are both critical to accelerating America’s space renaissance.”
In the document, which queried Bridenstine on his views and qualifications for NASA’s top job, the congressman listed NASA’s top three challenges as: (more…)
Jay Gibson’s two-year tenure as president and CEO of XCOR appears to be at an end.
On Friday, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Gibson to be deputy chief management officer of the Department of Defense.
The announcement describes Gibson as “most recently” having been XCOR’s president and CEO. However, a source says he is still at the company.
The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.
XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason. The objective was for Gibson to focus on the business side while Greason focused on completing construction on the Lynx suborbital space plane.
That arrangement did not work out. By November, Greason and two other founders, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson, had left the company to found Agile Aerospace.
In May 2016, XCOR laid off about 25 employees — roughly half of its workforce — and suspended work on the Lynx. The company has since refocused its energies on its rocket engine work.
UPDATE: XCOR board member Michael Blum issued the following written statement:
“Jay Gibson is still at XCOR but will be leaving shortly for a tremendous opportunity to serve his country in a very senior role at DoD. He has been a great CEO whose leadership and experience has guided XCOR through ups and downs.”
By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2017 — Space enables everything the joint force does and the national security space architecture must protect and defend that capability in a contested environment, officials from the Air Force, the intelligence community and the Defense Department told a House panel in recent testimony.
Air Force Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command and Air Force Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of the Joint Functional Component-Space for the U.S. Strategic Command testified last week before the House Armed Services Committee on priorities and posture of the national security space enterprise for fiscal year 2018.
Engine for Growth: Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness
Aerospace Industries Association May 2017 [Full Report]
Policy Recommendations for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness
1. Level the Playing Field
Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed. (more…)
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Space and Missiles Systems Center has awarded a sole-source contract for Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) payload integration services to Orbital ATK, Feb. 3. The STPSat-6 spacecraft will be the primary payload on the STP-3 mission expected to launch no earlier than June 2019.
The STPSat-6 integration services contract includes: payload integration, spacecraft bus modification, and test of the space vehicle. The contract also requires technical support services including SV-to-launch vehicle integration, launch preparation and execution, and on-orbit support.
The Space Angels Network has been lobbying against an amendment to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow greater use of excess ICBM motors for commercial satellite launches. The network says the measure would benefit one company, Orbital ATK, whose Minotaur line of boosters uses these motor, at the expense of an emerging commercial small-satellite launch industry.
The use of ICBM motors are liimited to launches where commercial alternatives are unavailable. The amendment would remove that restriction.
A letter the network sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee is reproduced below.
The departments of Defense and Commerce have outlined their achievements in space in a pair of exit memos. The Obama Administration also outlined its space achievements in the Office of Science and Technology exit memo.
There is no mention in the Department of Transportation’s exit memo of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which is playing an increasingly important role in the sector.
Below are excerpts from those memos from the Defense and Commerce departments. (more…)
A report on space traffic management prepared for NASA recommends that the responsibility for tracking satellites and orbital debris be transferred from the Department of Defense (DOD) to a civilian agency, but it does not recommend which one.
The analysis, titled “Orbital Traffic Management,” was done by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) under a NASA contract. Congress ordered the study as part of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015.