A Look at the Payloads in Falcon Heavy’s STP-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — The Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission, managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), is targeting launch on June 24, 2019, with the launch window opening at 11:30 p.m. ET. Lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this mission will deliver 24 satellites to space on the DoD’s first ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver and a total mission duration of over six hours. In addition, the U.S. Air Force plans to reuse side boosters from the Arabsat-6A Falcon Heavy launch, recovered after a return to launch site landing, making it the first reused Falcon Heavy ever flown for the U.S. Air Force.
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NASA Spacecraft to use ‘Green’ Fuel for the First Time

A Ball Aerospace engineer adjusts the thermal insulation on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft bus following integration of the propulsion system. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — A non-toxic, rosé-colored liquid could fuel the future in space and propel missions to the Moon or other worlds. NASA will test the fuel and compatible propulsion system in space for the first time with the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), set to launch this month on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

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X-60A Hypersonic Flight Research Vehicle Program Completes Critical Design Review

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division, in partnership with Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc., is developing the X-60A vehicle. It is an air-dropped liquid rocket specifically designed for hypersonic flight research.

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SpaceX Receives $28.7 Million USAF Contract for Starlink Constellation

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX a contract worth $28.7 million for research work on the company’s Starlink satellite constellation.

“This agreement allows for experimentation in the areas of establishing connectivity, operational experimentation, and special purpose experimentation. Experimentation will include connectivity demonstrations to Air Force ground sites and aircraft for experimental purposes,” the contract award states.

“For the proposed Phase 2, the awardee proposes to perform experiments in two other key areas: early versions of a commercial space-to-space data relay service and mobile connectivity directly from space to aircraft,” the award added.

Starlink is designed to provide global communications services using an initial constellation of more than 4,000 satellites. When fully built out, the system will include nearly 12,000 spacecraft.

Successful Launch for AFRL Eagle Spacecraft Experiment on AFSPC-11 mission

Atlas V launches Orbital ATK-designed satellites for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: ULA)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (88th Air Base Wing PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s EAGLE spacecraft flight experiment was successfully launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 14.

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A Closer Look at Astra Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

At some point in the next few weeks, the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska will host its first commercial rocket launch. Officials at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the spaceport, are hoping the suborbital test flight is the first of many commercial flights from the underused facility.

While officials have not identified the California company conducting the launch, a perusal of the corporation’s board minutes indicate it is almost certainly a small Bay Area startup named Astra Space.

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USAF Research Laboratory Licenses Green Propellant to Digital Solid State Propulsion

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – A recently signed Air Force Research Laboratory patent licensing agreement will enable commercialization of a green alternative to hydrazine for spacecraft propulsion.

The AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ) signed a patent license agreement with Digital Solid State Propulsion Inc., a small business located in Reno, Nevada.  Under the agreement, the company will produce and sell the Air Force developed monopropellant, AF-M315E. The PLA was coupled with a cooperative research and development agreement that allows AFRL scientists to collaborate with the company to provide technical knowledge and advice.

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USAF Research Laboratory Seeks Innovative Small Business Proposals

Do you run a small business that has some innovative ideas about space systems?  If so, the U.S. Air Force wants to hear from you.

“The Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV) is seeking proposals from offeror’s to advance the technology and scientific knowledge supporting all aspects of space systems,” a new solicitation reads. “Space system will include launch, payload adapters, on-orbit systems, communications links, ground systems, and user equipment.

“Efforts will include basic, applied, and advanced research, advanced component and technology development, prototyping, system development and demonstration, and operational system development,” the document adds. “This effort will span the range from concept and laboratory experimentation to testing/demonstration in a relevant environment.”

Read the full solicitation. The response date is April 9, 2018.

AFRL’s Advanced Multi-junction Solar Cells Deliver High Efficiency, Reduced Costs

Inverted Metamorphic Multi-Junction Solar Cells are a more efficient and lighter weight alternative to the state-of-practice multi-junction space solar cells. (Credit: SolAero Technologies)

By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
Air Force Research Laboratory

Experts at the Air Force Research Laboratory continue to expand the scope of their technological expertise, rising above the Earth’s surface to meet the power needs of next generation military spacecraft.

A collaborative effort between the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing and Space Vehicles Directorates, the Space Industrial Base Working Group and SolAero Technologies has resulted in state-of-the art, multi-junction solar cells destined to reduce costs and increase power efficiency for military space applications.

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Orbital ATK Receives $20 Million Contract for Solid Booster Technology

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)[/caption]The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $20 million contract to ATK Launch Systems for “advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology.”

The award is an “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, hybrid cost-plus-fixed fee and firm-fixed-price contract for advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology. This contract provides a contract vehicle the Air Force Research Laboratory, aerospace systems, and rocket propulsion division can use to establish task orders to advance solid rocket motor technologies and address technical needs for next-generation strategic, tactical, and spacecraft propulsion systems,” according to the contract announcement.

“Work will be performed in Corinne, Utah, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 16, 2022,” the announcement states. “This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with two offers received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $650,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.”

BlackSky Awarded $16.4 Million Contract by Air Force Research Lab

SEATTLE, August 29, 2017 (Spaceflight Industries PR) – Spaceflight Industries today announced that BlackSky has been awarded a two-year $16.4 million cost-plus-prime contract with the Air Force Research Lab to develop and deliver a cloud-based geospatial intelligence broker platform. The brokering platform will provide on-demand analytics, collection, and information services from global data sources.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Fuel Boost Kick Pump Testing

The HBTD kick pump in test configuration at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s test facility in Sacramento, California. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 12, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), successfully completed its test campaign of a fuel boost kick pump at its Sacramento, California, facility as part of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator (HBTD) program. This device, as part of the engine turbomachinery, is the first full-scale engine component to be tested on the program. Aerojet Rocketdyne tested the pump units at full power to provide key insights for future engines that use the oxygen-rich staged combustion (ORSC) engine cycle.

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The Year in Suborbital Launches

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)
The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km.
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NASA Team Demonstrates Loading of Swedish ‘Green’ Propellant

A Goddard team, led by engineer Henry Mulkey (middle), prepares a tank containing a Swedish-developed green propellant before its simulated loading at the Wallops Flight Facility late last year. Kyle Bentley (squatting) and Joe Miller (standing to the right of Mulkey) assisted in the demonstration. (Credits: NASA/C. Perry)
A Goddard team, led by engineer Henry Mulkey (middle), prepares a tank containing a Swedish-developed green propellant before its simulated loading at the Wallops Flight Facility late last year. Kyle Bentley (squatting) and Joe Miller (standing to the right of Mulkey) assisted in the demonstration. (Credits: NASA/C. Perry)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — A NASA team has successfully demonstrated the handling and loading of a new-fangled, Swedish-developed “green propellant” that smells like glass cleaner, looks like chardonnay, but has proven powerful enough to propel a satellite.

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