ULA Atlas V Launches U.S. Air Force Communications Satellite

An United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-5 mission for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 6:13 a.m. ET. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 8, 2019 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on August 8 at 6:13 a.m. EDT.

This marked the 80th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, which has successfully launched and precisely delivered the entire AEHF constellation on orbit. ULA has a track record of 100 percent mission success with 134 successful launches.

(more…)

NewSpace vs. Big Rocket: FAA’s Overhaul of Launch Regs Splits Industry

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)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

According to who you talk to, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed streamlining of launch and re-entry regulations is either a prudent step forward that provides much-needed flexibility while protecting public safety or a a confusing mess that’s a massive step backward.

(more…)

Atlas V Launch Set for Thursday

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 5, 2019 (ULA PR)) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

The launch is planned for Aug. 8 at Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Today’s forecast shows a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The two hour launch window begins at 5:44 a.m. ET.

(more…)

First Vulcan Booster Heads for Structural Qualification Testing

ULA Delays Atlas V, Delta IV Missions

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V551 rocket carrying the Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency 5 (AEHF-5) satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is delayed, due to an anomaly during component testing at a supplier which has created a cross-over concern. 

Additional time is needed for the team to review the component anomaly and determine if any corrective action is required to the launch vehicle. Launch of the AEHF-5 mission is now targeted for no earlier than Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.

AEHF satellites provide highly-secure, jam-proof connectivity between U.S. national leadership and deployed military forces. Atlas V rockets successfully launched the first four AEHF satellites in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2018.

The AEHF-5 launch will mark the 80th Atlas V mission since the inaugural launch in 2002 and the 10th in the 551 configuration. The rocket features a kerosene-fueled common core booster, five solid rocket boosters, the hydrogen-fueled Centaur upper stage and a five-meter-diameter payload fairing.

The ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the GPS III SV02 mission for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is delayed, due to an anomaly during component testing at a supplier which has created a cross-over concern. 

Upon further evaluation, additional time is needed to replace and retest the component on the launch vehicle. Launch of the GPS III SV02 mission is now targeted for no earlier than Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.

Atlas V Launch Rescheduled for July 17

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., June 28, 2019 (ULA PR) — The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) mission for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems is now targeted for Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 7:12 a.m. ET, with a two-hour launch window.

The AEHF-5 mission will launch from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
(more…)











Boeing, SpaceX Continue to Work Through Technical Challenges on Commercial Crew

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing and SpaceX are continuing to work through a number of technical challenges on their commercial crew spacecraft as NASA struggles to process data needed to certify the vehicles, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

There is sufficient schedule uncertainty, in fact, that GAO recommended the space agency continue planning for additional delays in providing crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS).

(more…)











SpaceX Protests USAF Launcher Development Awards to Rivals

SpaceX is protesting the U.S. Air Force decision to award $2.3 billion in launch vehicle development funding to rivals Blue Origin,  Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance last year.

SpaceX “respectfully challenges the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s evaluation of proposals and portfolio award decision under the Launch Services Agreement (“LSA”)…as arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law,”  the company said in its complaint. “SpaceX does not seek any advantage, but only the opportunity to compete for national security missions on a fair and level playing field.”

The protest, which SpaceX had hoped to keep secret, says that awards were given to “three unproven rockets based on unstated metrics, unequal treatment under the procurement criteria, and opaque industrial planning.” SpaceX said.

(more…)











Lawmakers Seek Review of U.S. Air Force Decision Not to Award Funding to SpaceX

BFR in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceNews reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) are seeking an independent review of the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance for the development of new launch vehicles. California-based SpaceX was not awarded any funding.

In a Feb. 4 letter addressed to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Feinstein and Calvert — both with strong ties to the space industry — argue that the path the Air Force has chosen to select future launch providers creates an unfair playing field. Although SpaceX is not mentioned in the letter by name, it is clear from the lawmakers’ language that they believe the company is getting a raw deal because, unlike its major competitors, it did not receive Air Force funding to modify its commercial rockets so they meet national security mission requirements.

Feinstein and Calvert in the letter ask Wilson to “review how the Air Force intends to maintain assured access to space while preserving maximum competitive opportunities for all certified launch providers.” A copy of the letter was obtained by SpaceNews.

At issue are Launch Service Agreement contracts the Air Force awarded in October to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance. The three companies collectively received $2.3 billion to support the development of space launch vehicles that meet national security requirements. The Air Force started the LSA program in 2016 to ensure future access to space and to end its reliance on ULA’s Atlas 5 and its Russian main engine.

(more…)











ULA Union Workers Reject New Contract But Get It Anyway

Union workers at United Launch Alliance facilities in Alabama, California and Florida rejected the company’s new three-year contract on Sunday only to have it take affect anyway when a vote to strike fell short, according to published reports.

The vote involved approximately 860 workers ULA’s production facility in Decatur, Ala., and its launch sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) .

(more…)











Sierra Nevada Welcomes ULA Human Launch Services Organization

Sparks, NV (SNC PR)– Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) welcomes the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) new Human Launch Services organization, which will support the company’s efforts to human rate the Atlas V launch vehicle.  This office will now serve as an interface between SNC’s Dream Chaser® orbital crew vehicle team and ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicle team.  ULA and SNC have been working together for seven years on development of the Dream Chaser®Space System (DCSS).  The DCSS is a U.S. commercial space transportation system funded under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program that is capable of carrying crew and cargo to low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station.

(more…)











Shelby Hails ULA During Decatur Visit

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) at the ULA production facility in Dacatur. (Credit: ULA)

DECATUR, Ala., March 24, 2012 (ULA PR) — U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby today discussed important issues facing Alabama and the nation, including job growth, during his visit to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) production facility in Decatur, Ala., where ULA manufactures both Atlas and Delta launch vehicles. ULA launches critical space capabilities for the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office and other commercial customers.

Sen. Shelby toured ULA’s production facility and hosted a town hall meeting with Decatur-area constituents, including ULA employees.

(more…)











ULA Celebrates 5th Birthday, Looks to Human Launches in Future

ULA's Atlas V

ULA PR — CENTENNIAL, Colo., Dec. 6, 2011 — United Launch Alliance was formed just five years ago, bringing together the world’s two most experienced launch teams and two highly reliable launch systems, Atlas and Delta. ULA’s unparalleled recipe of experience is built on the Atlas and Delta legacy of 1,300 launches during the past five decades, propelled by ULA employees and suppliers located in 46 states.

ULA’s impressive record of success lies in the 56 successful launches the company has achieved in just 60 months. In total, ULA has launched 30 national security missions, 17 NASA missions and nine commercial missions.

“We’re very proud of the record ULA team has amassed over the past five years,” said ULA President and CEO Michael Gass. “Just this year, ULA has launched 11 missions with nearly 20 billion dollars of critical, irreplaceable assets, all of which were safely delivered to orbit. Most recently, we launched five science missions for NASA in six months.”

The evidence of ULA’s success is literally on orbit.

(more…)











Senators Call for Air Force to Halt Talks with ULA on Bulk Rocket Buy

ULA's Atlas V

The U.S. Air Force’s plan to purchase 40 rockets from United Launch Alliance has hit another snag, Aviation Week reports:

The top two senators from the Senate Armed Services Committee are calling for the U.S. Air Force to halt talks worth up to $15 billion with its top rocket provider owing to insufficient pricing data and management insight for the service to make “informed decisions” for crafting a new buy strategy for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV).

“Given the current climate of fiscal austerity, these developments are profoundly troubling,” says Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in an Oct. 21 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

(more…)











Analyst Rips SpaceX on Price Increases, Schedule Delays

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Loren Thompson has a piece on Forbes.com in which he tries to tear down what he views as myths and falsehoods concerning Elon Musk and SpaceX. Among other things, the Lexington Institute chief operating officer doesn’t believe Musk’s numbers:

The easiest ways to track prices in the launch services market are to follow cost per launch and cost per pound lifted into orbit — metrics that may diverge considerably depending on the intended payload size and orbital plane. Measured either way, SpaceX tends to over-promise when it announces a new vehicle and then raise prices later. For example, the price of a Falcon 1 launch was initially stated at about $6 million in 2003-2004, but then gradually rose to about $11 million in 2010-2011. The price of a Falcon 9 launch rose from $35 million prior to 2008 to $60 million today. The lower prices were quoted before the two vehicles had actually been launched, so the later prices presumably reflect complications encountered in development — a key problem when implementing any new business strategy. Similarly, the per-pound cost of launching payloads into orbit on either vehicle has risen over 100 percent since initial estimates were made by the company.

(more…)