Made in Space Eyes Glass Alloy Production & Modular Science Platforms in Orbit

Made in Space (MIS) will develop systems for the production of glass alloys in microgravity, the assembly and refurbishment of modular platforms in orbit, and the in-space manufacturing of large structures for infrared space interferometry missions with the help of NASA funding.

The three projects were among five Made in Space proposals that NASA selected for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program. Each contract is worth up to $125,000 over 13 months.


Orbital ATK Unveils OmegA Rocket

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virginia, 16 April 2018 (Orbital ATK PR) — During the 34th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today provided a detailed update on the important progress being made on its Next Generation Launch System.


Final Request For Proposal Released for U.S. Air Force Launch Services Contract

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Air Force released a final Request for Proposal for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Services for the following payloads: National Reconnaissance Office Launch (NROL)-85, NROL-87, SILENTBARKER, Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO)-5, and Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-44. The final RFP was released on Jan. 31 with proposals due back to the Air Force on April 16 in accordance with the solicitation instructions. The contracts for these launch services are expected to be awarded in late 2018.


ULA’s USAF Launch Contract Worth $191 Million

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Air Force announced today the award of the third competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch service after more than a decade of sole-sourced contracts. United Launch Alliance was awarded a contract for Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) Launch Service. This is a firm-fixed price, standalone contract with a value of $191,141,581.


Air Force Releases Final RFP for New Rideshare Capability on Space Launch Missions

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF SMC PR) —The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) released a final request for proposal for the Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapters, or LDPE. The foundational technology for the LDPE is the EELV Secondary Payload Adapters, or ESPA, which is an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) initiative to host auxiliary payloads on primary spacecraft launch missions.

This SMC acquisition responds to the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) standard service policy that requires rideshare services on launch missions when feasible. The LDPE leverages propulsive ESPA technologies developed by AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. The product of this procurement represents significant progress toward AFSPC objectives to provide secondary payload rideshare opportunities on Department of Defense launch missions.

The DPE program will be a competitively bid acquisition for an EELV-compatible payload adapter with power, attitude control, and propulsive capabilities. The effort will include integration services for government-furnished payloads and one year of early orbit checkout and operations. The contract will have options for two additional LDPE systems that would be manifested on future AFSPC missions.

SMC, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force’s center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.


Moog Completes First Project Under USAF’s Booster Propulsion Maturation Program

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The first of ten contracts awarded under the Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) was recently completed. Moog Inc. successfully completed a “Non-Destructive Evaluation, Standards, and Testing” project, March 13. The company met all program objectives and completed all deliverables on time and on budget during the 15-month period of performance.

The Space and Missile Systems Center awarded the Booster Propulsion BAA contracts between November 2015 to January 2016 with the objective of maturing technologies and reducing risk in support of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The BAA was part of a comprehensive Air Force plan to transition off the Russian made RD-180 propulsion system used on the Atlas V rocket by investing in domestic industry launch solutions.


NASA Awards Launch Services Program Contract to a.i. solutions

NASA LOGONASA has awarded a contract to a.i. solutions, Inc., of Lanham, Maryland, to support the agency’s Launch Services Program (LSP) in providing end-to-end launch services for NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads on commercial expendable launch vehicles.

The Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) contract is cost-plus-fixed-fee, with an award-term option incentive and a provision for obtaining additional requirements on an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) basis. The base contract value is approximately $48.1 million, and the maximum ordering value of the IDIQ portion is $55. Including eight options, the total potential value of the contract is $387.6 million.


ULA Responds to SpaceX’s Lawsuit Over Bulk Buy

Delta IV lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Credit: Ben Cooper, United Launch Alliance)
Delta IV lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Credit: Ben Cooper, United Launch Alliance)

United Launce Alliance (ULA) Statement in Response to SpaceX Lawsuit
April 28, 2014

“ULA is the only government certified launch provider that meets all of the unique EELV requirements that are critical to supporting our troops and keeping our country safe. That is the case today, when the acquisition process started in 2012 and at the time of the contract award in December 2013.

“The recent 5-year block buy contract was the result of a best practice acquisition process that enabled the government to negotiate a block of launches in advance that enabled significant operations efficiency and created the needed stability and predictability in the supplier and industrial base, while meeting national security space requirements.


Pentagon Analysis Finds Multiple Causes for Rise in EELV Prices

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

Space News reports that a Pentagon analysis has found multiple causes for the sharp rise in cost for the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which includes United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles:

The Pentagon’s acquisition czar cited a contracting arrangement that offers little incentive to control costs as a contributor to soaring prices on the program that launches the vast majority of U.S. government satellites.

In a July 12 letter to lawmakers, Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the projected cost of the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rocket program over 150 missions has more than doubled since 2004, to nearly $70 billion. The primary drivers of the cost growth are unstable demand, international market vagaries and industrial base issues, he said….


NASA Marshall Partners With Air Force on SLS Advanced Rocket Engine

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Systems Directorate in Los Angeles, Calif., are collaborating on the Space Launch System (SLS) Advanced Development NASA Research Announcement (NRA) to study an affordable, next-generation rocket engine.

Partnering on this effort will strengthen mutual organizational goals, including reduced development and total life cycle costs, cross agency collaboration for rocket propulsion system development and strengthen competitive growth in the nation’s rocket propulsion industrial base.


HLVs, EELVs and the Future of NASA

Three items have appeared over the past week concerning NASA’s future plans for human space exploration and what type of heavy-lift vehicle it needs to go beyond low Earth orbit. Rand Simberg examines at the arguments in favor of an Apollo approach in the above animation and finds them wanting. (Thanks to Clark Lindsey over at Hobby Space for finding the video.)

The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor looks at a proposal by Lockheed Martin to launch an Orion vehicle into a highly elliptical orbit aboard a Delta IV Heavy, an approach that ascendant Republicans will find wanting:

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s development of a new astronaut capsule for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, seemingly sidetracked by White House opposition barely a few months ago, now appears to be gaining traction with a proposed unmanned test flight as early as 2013.


Air Force Eyes New Upper Stage Engine for Atlas V, Delta IV

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.

U.S. Air Force Ponders New Upper-stage Rocket Engine
Space News

The U.S. Air Force is beginning to weigh options for developing a more capable and affordable upper-stage engine for the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets the service uses to launch most national security payloads.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles is giving industry until Nov. 9 to submit ideas for building a next-generation upper-stage engine to replace by 2017 the two versions of the RL-10 engine Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne builds for the Atlas 5 and Delta 4. A formal request for information the Air Force posted Sept. 27 on the Federal Business Opportunities website has garnered the attention of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and its rival Aerojet, the other main U.S. producer of liquid-fueled rocket engines.

Originally developed under the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program as competing rockets, the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 are operated today by United Launch Alliance of Denver, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture. The rockets use slightly different versions of the liquid hydrogen-fueled RL-10 engine to power their upper stage. While the engine has evolved over the years, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne officials say engineers are reaching the limit of additional improvements that can be squeezed out of the 50-year-old engine design.

Read the full story.

Air Force Begins Work on Reusable Rockets

Aviation Week reports that just as NASA is beginning to look into using the Atlas V and Delta IV EELVs for crew transport, the U.S. Air Force is finalizing plans to replace them with reusable rocket technology by 2025:

With the Air Force facing escalating costs on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, the new system offers the promise of cutting launch costs more than 50% by combining a reusable first stage with expendable upper stages. The booster would take off vertically and return to a runway landing at the launch site.


Space Review Looks at ISS, Heavy Lift and Commercial Launchers

The Space Review this week:

  • Ronald Menich argues that smaller rockets provide better redundancy than heavy lift vehicles in the event of launch failure.
  • Taylor Dinerman looks at how much access scientists will have to ISS once the shuttle is retired next year.
  • Jeff Foust reports looks at the effort by commercial satellite operators to open up the launch market to EELVs and Chinese rockets.
  • Doris Hamill describes the steps needed to make human missions to the Red Planet possible.
  • Jeff Foust briefly reviews a couple of new space books.

Could SpaceX Enter DOD Launch Market?

Clark Lindsey at Hobby Space points to a proposed U.S. government policy that could open the door for SpaceX to compete to launch large Department of Defense payloads.

The Air Force recently published its Draft EELV New Entrant Evaluation Plan. The document spells out policies by which the Air Force would evaluate new launch providers.

The EELV program is currently limited to United Launch Alliance, which markets the Delta IV and Atlas V from Boeing and Lockheed Martin.