Orion Recovery Team: Ready to ‘Rock and Roll’

At night, on Nov. 1, 2018, a test version of the Orion capsule is pulled into the well deck of the USS John P. Murtha during Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT) in the Pacific Ocean. URT-7 is one in a series of tests conducted by the Exploration Ground Systems Recovery Team to verify and validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean following deep space exploration missions. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Amanda Griffin
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

A NASA and Department of Defense team returned from a week of training at sea to improve joint landing and recovering operations planned for crew aboard the agency’s Orion spacecraft from future deep space exploration missions.

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Officials Give Widely Varying Estimates on Cost of Space Force

Defense One reports that senior Pentagon officials remain widely apart on what the Space Force will cost to set up.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday told reporters at the Pentagon that it would cost “single digit, not a double-digit” billions of dollars. “It might be lower than $5” billion, he said.

About two hours later, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson defended her service’s far higher estimate. In September, she estimated that standing up a Space Force and a new combatant command for space warfare would cost about $13 billion over five years. (Shanahan did not specify the timeframe for his $5 billion estimate on Thursday.)

“Our cost estimate that we gave to a lot of people in the Pentagon in September was the cost of a fully-fledged, stand-alone department and also a unified combatant command,” she said at the Defense One Summit. “Whatever is put forward needs to implement the president’s proposal,” she said.

Reserve Citizen Airmen Prepare for Human Spaceflight

n response to a simulated emergency at Kennedy Space Center, Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing revalidate their response time In the event of a catastrophic, life-threatening occurrence within the capsule of a human spaceflight launch, Oct. 25, 2018. This exercise marked the first time that the Department of Defense, NASA and commercial providers have exercised this type of event utilizing twelve live patients, wearing life-like makeup to emphasize simulated injuries, and the full array of air assets. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan,
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — To prepare for the arrival of human spaceflight tests next year, the 920th Rescue Wing along with the DoD Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office, NASA and SpaceX personnel joined forces to plan and execute a realistic medical evacuation exercise at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 25.

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SSL Selected to Compete for Contract to Provide SmallSat Solutions to Department of Defense

PALO ALTO, CA, Oct. 8, 2018 (SSL PR) – SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR) (TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, has been selected as one of three companies qualified to compete for Department of Defense business under a contract called Small Spacecraft Prototyping Engineering Development and Integration – Space Solutions (SSPEDI).

NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the contract under an interagency agreement with the Department of Defense’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office. The new contract is one of a number of innovative and promising programs in SSL’s growing U.S. government portfolio.

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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.

Defense Secretary Mattis to Axe Ex-XCOR CEO from Key Pentagon Post

John (Jay) Gibson

Well, that didn’t last very long.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis plans to remove John “Jay” Gibson II from the post of chief management officer (CMO) for a “lack of performance.”

The decision comes less than a year after the former XCOR CEO joined the Defense Department as deputy CMO in November 2017. The Senate subsequently confirmed him as defense CMO in February 2018.

In that position, Gibson’s job is to find ways of making the massive defense bureaucracy more efficient to free up funding to modernize the armed forces.

XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason as CEO. 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.

The Trump Administration announced its nomination of Gibson for the post of deputy CMO in June 2017. He left XCOR shortly thereafter at a time when the struggling space company laid off all its employees. A few people were hired back on a contract basis.

XCOR filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. The company’s assets were purchased by a non-profit organization.

Report: China Making Rapid Progress on Anti-Satellite Systems

China has developed a number of weapons designed to jam and destroy enemy satellites in the event of a war while publicly opposing weapons in space, according to a new Pentagon report.

“In addition to the development of directed energy weapons and satellite jammers, China is also developing direct-ascent and co-orbital kinetic kill capabilities and has probably made progress on the anti-satellite missile system it tested in July 2014,” the report stated. “China is employing more sophisticated satellite operations and is probably testing dual-use technologies in space that could be applied to counterspace missions.

The claims come in a document from the Secretary of Defense titled, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018.”

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Rogozin Accuses Musk of Dumping Below-Cost Boosters on Market

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin says Russia is working on a reusable launch vehicle that would land back on the runway and accused the U.S. government of letting Elon Musk’s SpaceX of dumping below-cost boosters on the international market to kill competition.

The new heavy Soyuz-5 rocket, currently developed by Russia, must become more powerful yet remain cheaper than the products supplied by the competitors, the recently-elected head of the Russian space corporation told TASS in an extensive interview on Thursday.

While Moscow is looking into adding reusable elements to the Soyuz-5 to further lower launch costs, reusability is not a universal solution to achieve this goal, Rogozin believes. Musk’s SpaceX, which is currently the only company to have launched reusable rockets commercially, manages to cut the costs by other means, the Russian space boss pointed out.

“Musk’s advantage is not the reusability but that the US government gives him opportunities for dumping [prices] on the market. Musk sells his launches twofold to the Pentagon, covering his losses on the commercial market and killing competitors, who lack such a generous state behind them,” Rogozin said.

Due to its geography, Russia is largely unable to make Falcon-style reusable boosters that would make vertical powered descent to a movable platform at sea, and so it has to follow an alternate path sticking to horizontal landings or relying on parachutes, he said.

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

Mike Pence

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Mattis, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, General Selva, General Goldfein, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and all the men and women of the United States Department of Defense who each and every day oversee the greatest military in the history of the world: Thank you for all you do every day for the American people.  (Applause.)

It is my great honor, Mr. Secretary, to join you here today at the Pentagon.  And let me begin by bringing greetings from your Commander-in-Chief, who has from the very earliest days of this administration proved himself to be a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, committed to strengthening American security here on Earth and in space.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

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President Donald J. Trump is Building the United States Space Force for a 21st Century Military

Credit: Matt Wade

White House Press Release

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

— President Donald J. Trump

BUILDING SPACE FORCE: President Donald J. Trump and his Administration are laying the groundwork to build Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military.
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NASA, Commercial Partners Progress to Human Spaceflight Home Stretch

The upper and lower domes of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft 2 Crew Flight Test Vehicle were mated June 19, 2018, inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. On the right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will be used for the company’s uncrewed flight test, known as Demonstration Mission 1, arrived to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 10, 2018. (Credits: Photo on the left, Boeing, on the right: NASA/SpaceX)

By Madison Tuttle
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. As part of the Commercial Crew Program’s public-private partnership, both companies are fine-tuning their designs, integrating hardware, and testing their crew spacecraft and rockets to prepare for test flights

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Trump’s Call for Space Force Will Have to Wait


It looks as if President Donald Trump’s call for the establishment of a “separate but equal” space force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military will have to wait at least another year.

There is no mention of a space force in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019 that was worked out by members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) earlier this week.

Last year, the two committees commissioned a report on how a separate space force could be established. With an interim report not due until Aug. 1, the committee members avoided the subject in the FY 2019 NDAA.

A separate space force would largely be carved out of the U.S. Air Force, which handles most space-related military functions. However, units from other branches of the service would likely be folded into the new force.

The NDAA conference report did include a section calling for the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a space warfighting policy. The HASC released the following summary of that section.

Space Warfighting

Russia and China are developing capabilities to deny the United States the advantages we derive from operating in Space. Equally concerning is the inability of the organizations responsible for the nation’s national security-related Space activities to prepare for Space to become a warfighting domain and to adequately develop and/or acquire essential national security Space systems.

Efforts to reform the Department’s approach to Space issues can be summarized in four equally important elements: acquisition reform, resources, cadre development, and joint warfighting. The NDAA comprehensively addresses each one of these to ensure that our Servicemembers are ready to defend our vital national interests in Space. The conference report also ensures that the Department’s Space investments are being executed in a way to ensure increased agility, lethality, and accountability. The NDAA:

  • Directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative process for Space-related acquisitions.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to improve the quality of the Space cadre within the Air Force.
  • Establishes a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for Space as a warfighting domain.
  • Supports the President’s request for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, Protected Satellite Communications, and the Air Force’s Space launch efforts.

DOD Awards $69.8 Million More to Aerojet Rocketdyne for AR-1, RL-10CX Development

Staged-combustion testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for the AR1 program is being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

WASHINGTON, DC (DOD PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California, has been awarded a $69,804,323 modification (P00014) to a previously awarded other transaction agreement (FA8811-16-9-0003) for the development of the AR1 booster engine and the RL10CX upper stage engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

This action implements Section 1604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015, which requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches.

Work will be performed in Canoga Park, California; Sacramento, California; Centennial, Colorado; Huntsville, Alabama; Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. The work on the AR1 is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, and the work on the RL10CX is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.

Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds in the amount of $63,014,148; and fiscal 2018 RDT&E funds in the amount of $20,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award. The Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, California, is the contracting activity.

Busek Company Selected for NASA Funding to Develop Spacecraft Advanced Propulsion

Busek Company will develop advanced CubeSat propulsion and Hall Effect thrusters (HETs) with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Massachusetts-based company for five Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 awards. The contracts are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The three proposals focused on CubeSats and small satellites include:

  • a low impulse bit electrospray thruster control system;
  • a compact high performance plasma propulsion system (CHPPPS); and,
  • an iodine-compatible photocathode for RF ion thrusters.

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An Update on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

Report to Congressional Committees

Weapon Systems Annual Assessment
Knowledge Gaps Pose Risks to Sustaining Recent Positive Trends

Government Accountability Office
April 2018
Full Report (PDF)

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program

Technology Maturity, Design Stability, and Production Readiness

All but one (14 of 15) of ULA’s launch vehicle variants—which are based on payload fairing size and number of strap-on solid rocket boosters used—and two variants of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 have flown at least once, demonstrating technology maturity. For design stability and production readiness, the program assesses launch vehicles using Aerospace Corporation’s “3/7 reliability rule.” Once a variant is launched successfully three times, its design can be considered stable and mature. Similarly, if a variant is successfully launched seven times, both the design and production process can be considered stable and mature.

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