SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

(more…)

Rocket Lab to Supply Solar Power for United States Space Force’s New Missile Warning Satellites

Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites. (Credit: Raytheon Intelligence & Space)

The solar cell assemblies will power three Lockheed Martin spacecraft designed to provide resilient space-based global missile warning capabilities to meet evolving threats from adversaries under the United States Space Force’s Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) program

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, announced that its high-efficiency, radiation-hardened Coverglass Interconnected solar Cell (CIC) assemblies will power the three Lockheed Martin Next Gen OPIR GEO (NGG) satellites for the United States Space Force (USSF). The NGG program will deliver resilient global missile warning capabilities to counter emerging missile and counter-space threats and is part of the latest evolution of the USSF’s missile warning system, following the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) program, which was supported by SolAero, a space solar power company acquired by Rocket Lab in January 2022.

(more…)

Air Force Research Laboratory Recurve Satellite Launched on Virgin Orbit Mission

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate’s spacecraft Recurve was launched into low Earth orbit July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Rutan Field, Mojave, California, on a Virgin Orbit U.S. Space Force Space Test Program mission. (Credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

by Jeanne Dailey
Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate spaceflight experiment Recurve was launched July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port on the Virgin Orbit space system in California. The launch supported the U.S. Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carried six additional payloads for the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP).

Recurve is the latest in several low-cost CubeSats designed, built and operated entirely in house at the Space Vehicles Directorate located on Kirtland AFB.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Successfully Launches Seven Satellites

Cosmic Girl takes off for the Straight Up mission on July 1, 2022. (Credit: Virgin Orbit/Virgin Orbit/Dae Dae)

MOJAVE, Calif., July 2, 2022 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) has confirmed the success of its fourth consecutive satellite launch mission. This launch, named Straight Up, carried seven satellites to Low Earth Orbit for the United States Space Force (USSF), who procured this launch for the Rocket Systems Launch Program, with payloads provided by the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP). In support of its mission partners, Virgin Orbit has now delivered a total of thirty-three satellites to orbit with 100% mission success.

(more…)

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches Critical National Security Mission for U.S. Space Force

A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:15 p.m. EDT on July 1. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Atlas V precisely delivered USSF-12 mission to a complex geosynchronous orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., (July 2, 2022) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command lifted off on July 1 at 7:15 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. To date ULA has launched 151 times with 100 percent mission success.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Set to Launch 7 Satellites Tonight

UPDATE: Virgin Orbit says the launch was scrubbed because the LauncherOne “propellant temperature was slightly out of bounds.” The company has not announced a new launch date.

Virgin Orbit Launch

Launch Vehicles: LauncherOne/Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl
Payloads: 7 small satellites
Customer: U.S. Space Force
Launch Site: Pacific Ocean off California
Launch Origination: Mojave Air and Space Port | Mojave, Calif.
Launch Window: 10 p.m. PDT on June 29 | 1 a.m. EDT/0500 UTC on June 30
Livestream: 9:45 p.m. PDT on June 29 | 12:45 p.m. EDT/0445 UTC on June 30
Mission Name: Straight Up
Mission Number: STP-28A

Mission Overview

The launch will carry seven satellites from multiple government agencies that are experiments intended to demonstrate novel modular satellite bus, space domain awareness, and adaptive radio frequency technologies.

The U.S. Space Force has procured this launch for the Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP), with payloads provided by the DoD Space Test Program (STP). 

Payloads

CTIM-FD: CubeSat will measure radiation Earth receives from the Sun. (University of Colorado at Boulder)

Lonestar: U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command satellite focused on experimental tactical space support.

MISR-B: spacecraft will demonstrate two-way communications with ground devices and experiment with methods to leverage small satellite capabilities. (Department of Defense)

NACHOS-2: will allow scientists to detect, map, and quantify Earth’s trace gasses more easily, which is critical for volcanology and climate change research. (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Recurve: satellite propels CubeSat technology forward by demonstrating adaptive radio frequency system capability from low Earth orbit, evaluating mesh network behavior across multiple nodes to route data wherever it needs to go. (U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

Slingshot 1: CubeSat will advance on-orbit experiments using modular & autonomous technologies on next-gen satellite systems with SatCat5, a data interface which implements Ethernet-type communication between payloads using low power serial communications. (The Aerospace Corporation)

ULA Atlas V to Launch USSF-12 Mission on Thursday

Atlas V for the USSF-12 mission on the launch pad. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket will launch the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC). Liftoff will occur from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

Launch Date and Time: Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. EDT (2200 UTC)

(more…)

U.S. Space Force SSC’s GEO Wide Field of View Scheduled for Takeoff

Designed, built and integrated by Millennium Space Systems, Wide Field of View will demonstrate missile warning technologies and techniques. (Image Credit: Millennium Space Systems)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Millennium Space Systems PR) — The United States Space Force (USSF) Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) Wide Field of View (WFOV) Testbed is scheduled to launch June 30, 2022. SSC’s GEO WFOV space vehicle was designed built and integrated by Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company, and will inform the future Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) architecture.

(more…)

Delta 18 Activation and National Space Intelligence Center Establishment

U.S. Space Force Colonel Marqus Randall (right), Space Delta 18 commander, takes Space Delta 18’s guidon for the first time at the activation ceremony for Space Operations Command’s newest Delta, Space Delta 18, and established the National Space Intelligence Center (NSIC) at the Nutter Center, Dayton, Ohio, June 24, 2022. Space Delta 18 is named in honor of the U.S. Space Force’s role as the 18th member of the intelligence community. Delta 18 will deliver critical intelligence on threat systems, foreign intentions, and activities in the space domain to support national leaders, allies, partners and joint war fighters. (Credit: U.S. Space Force/SrA Jack Gardner)

By 1Lt Rachel Brinegar
Space Operations Command

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, June 24, 2022 — Today, the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio is the stage for the activation of Delta 18 and the establishment of the National Space Intelligence Center.

Colonel Marqus Randall assumed command of the new Delta, which consists of Space Delta 18 headquarters staff and two squadrons, the 1st Space Analysis Squadron and the 2nd Space Analysis Squadron, which transitioned from under the National Air and Space Intelligence Center to the National Space Intelligence Center under the U.S. Space Force. 

(more…)

Virgin Orbit on Target for Next Launch Window to Open June 29

Highlights: 

  • Dress rehearsals complete, payload-rocket mating successful 
  • June 29 marks the opening of the launch window for the company’s fourth overall mission  
  • Is lead-in to historic U.K. launch planned for later this year

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB)’s launch system is in place at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The dress rehearsals are complete, and the company remains on track for its upcoming Straight Up launch, with a launch window opening on June 29 at 10 pm PDT.

The launch will support the United States Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carry payloads for the Department of Defense (DOD) Space Test Program (STP). The target orbit for Straight Up is approximately 500 km above the Earth’s surface at a 45-degree inclination. Virgin Orbit is the first company to achieve this feat from California through its Above the Clouds launch which was completed earlier this year.

(more…)

NSSA Release Report on “United States Space Command: Progress and Opportunities”

ARLINGTON, Va., June 22, 2022 (NSSA PR) — The National Security Space Association (NSSA) today released a report entitled “United States Space Command:  Progress and Opportunities”. Produced by the Association’s Moorman Center for Space Studies, the report notes the importance of the USSPACECOM mission to U.S. national security and economic well-being, describes recent progress of the Command in reaching an “initial operational capability” (IOC), and highlights key challenges and opportunities facing the Command.

The report notes that, for the Command to reach its full potential, expanded cooperation with and support from other Department of Defense organizations and the Congress is required in the following areas:

(more…)

Northrop Grumman to Build Multi-Level Space Mesh Networking Prototype to Enable DOD’s Vision for Connected Battlespace

SAN DIEGO (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Aeronix, Inc. have been selected to build a secure connective networking layer in space that will help enable the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) vision for the joint force.

The companies will develop a Space End Crypto Unit (ECU) prototype that will connect platforms and weapons in low earth orbit (LEO) across common architecture, providing added network security to critical missions for the Space Force. Northrop Grumman’s prototype is a flexible, high throughput design based on a single chip, reprogrammable solution and is expected to provide a connected network solution that helps warfighters make decisions faster across a full range of platforms.

(more…)

Space Industrial Base Workshop Finds U.S. Falling Behind China in Key Areas

Credit: State of the Space Industrial Base Workshop

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (SSIB Conference PR) — Industry and government thought leaders gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the fourth annual State of the Space Industrial Base (SSIB) Workshop between May 31-June 3, 2022 to assess the health of, and provide recommendations to sustain, the United States’ leadership and advantage in space. Previous SSIB reports provided in-depth assessments and actionable recommendations for U.S. leadership. This year’s theme was “Prosperity & Sustainability: Winning the New Space Race.”  

(more…)

AFRL Sponsorship Recipient Wins NASA Space Manufacturing Contract

United Semiconductors, LLC facility in Los Alamitos, Calif. (Credit: United Semiconductors)

WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OH. (AFRL PR) — Air Force Research Laboratory research sponsorship recipient, United Semiconductors, LLC (USLLC), is one of eight companies selected to work on a three-year, $21 million NASA contract to manufacture tools in space.

(more…)

Launcher Awarded U.S. Space Force TACFI Contract to Develop its High-performance E-2 Liquid Rocket Engine

HAWTHORNE, CA, May 24, 2022 (Launcher PR) – The U.S. Space Force has awarded Launcher $1.7M to further develop our E-2 engine, which we proved earlier this month at NASA Stennis Space Center to be the highest-performing liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket engine combustion chamber in the U.S.

We are grateful for the U. S. Space Force’s support to advance E-2 development and help meet the goals of the DoD by maximizing performance and payload capacity for a small launch vehicle, accelerating vehicle production, and removing both geographic and supply chain constraints for volume production. 

(more…)