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.

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Video of Atlas V Launch on Saturday

Video Caption: A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the AFSPC-11 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on April 14, 2018. AFSPC-11 is a multi-manifested mission. The forward spacecraft is referred to as CBAS (Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM) and the aft spacecraft is EAGLE (ESPA Augmented GEO Laboratory Experiment).

Orbital ATK-Designed Satellites Demonstrate Affordable Access to Space for U.S. Air Force

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

DULLES, Va.(Orbital ATK PR) — Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, designed the EAGLE (ESPA Augmented Geostationary Laboratory Experiment) experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force’s AFSPC-11 mission that successfully launched on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V vehicle April 14 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The AFSCPC-11 mission included a second company designed satellite, Mycroft, which is among several Department of Defense experiments hosted on the EAGLE platform as separate payloads.

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Atlas V Launches U.S. Air Force Satellites

Atlas V launches the AFSPC-11 mission. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., April 15, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-11 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on April 14 at 7:13 p.m. EDT.

AFSPC-11 is a multi-payload mission. The forward payload is referred to as CBAS (Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM) and the aft spacecraft is EAGLE (EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Augmented Geosynchronous Experiment).

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ULA Atlas V Launch Set for Saturday

Atlas V booster (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANVERAL, Fla. (ULA PR) — The ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-11 mission for the U.S. Air Force is set to launch. The mission is set to lift off on Saturday, April 14 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Today’s L-4 forecast shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Launch Forecast Summary:

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 20%
Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds
Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 70%
Primary concern: Lightning, Cumulus Clouds, Ground Winds

Update Global Launch Schedule for April

PSLV-C40 booster lifts off (Credit: ISRO)

The schedule is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.

April 11

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: IRNSS 1I navigation satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

April 14/15

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AFSPC 11 mission
Launch Window: 6:00-10:00 p.m. EDT on 12th (2200-0200 GMT on 12th/13th)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The U.S. Air Force’s EAGLE satellite will carry multiple military experiments.

April 16

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
Launch Window: 6:32-6:33 p.m. EDT (2232-2233 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

April 18

Launch Vehicle: Proton
Payload: Blagovest No. 12L communications satellite
Launch Window: 6:12 p.m. EDT (2212 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

April 19/20

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payload: 2 Spire Global CubeSats, 1 GeoOptics satellite
Launch Time: 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EDT on 19th/20th (0030-0430 GMT on 20th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

April 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Xichang, China

NET April 24

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida

April 25

Launch Vehicle: Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 3B Earth observation satellite
Launch Window: 1:57 p.m. EDT (1757 GMT)
Launch Site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

Final launch of Rockot, a converted ballistic missile.

Astra Space Set to Launch From Alaska

Astra Space is set for the first flight of its new small-satellite launcher on Thursday from Alaska.

The FAA has granted a launch license to the California company for a suborbital flight of Rocket 1 from Launch Pad 2 at the Pacific spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

A notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the launch has been posted for April 5 at 2000 UTC and ending on April 6 at 0200 UTC (12 to 6 p.m. AKDT /4 to 10 p.m. EDT).

Details are sparse about the company and booster. However, it is believed that the two-stage rocket will be capable of placing a payload weighing up to 100 kg into orbit.

The Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the Kodiak spaceport, has billed the flight as the first of what it hopes will be many commercial launches from the underused facility.

Formerly known as Ventions LLC, Astra Space is operating under a $2 million contract with NASA to develop and flight test a high performance electric pump-fed launch vehicle. The 18-month contract runs through mid-December.

Founded in 2004, the company has been awarded 29 contracts worth nearly $21 million over the past 11 years from NASA, U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army.

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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NASA Awards ECLSS & Human Health Small Business Contracts

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected 10 projects designed to improve life support systems and human health in space for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Nine of the proposals deal with life support and habitation systems with a tenth involves human research and health maintenance. The two-year SBIR Phase II projects are eligible for up to $750,000 in funding.

Improving life support systems are an important area of research as NASA aims at sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to the moon and various deep-space destinations.

Below is a list of selected projects followed by their abstracts.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule Through April

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

Below is the updated launch schedule through the end of April. The 17 scheduled launches include:

  • 7 USA (6 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • 4 Russia (1 Soyuz, 1 Soyuz-2.1, 1 Proton, 1 Rockot)
  • 3 India (2 GSLV Mk.2, 1 PSLV)
  • 2 China (2 Long March 3B)
  • 1 Europe (1 Ariane 5).

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U.S. Air Force Awards Launch Contracts to SpaceX, ULA

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

The U.S. Air Force has announced the awarding of launch contracts to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and rival United Launch Alliance. SpaceX’s firm-fixed-price contract totals $290,594,130 while ULA was awarded a firm-fixed-price contract worth $354,811,947.

“This contract provides launch vehicle production, mission integration/launch operations/spaceflight worthiness and mission unique activities for a GPS III mission, with options for two additional GPS III launch services,” the Air Force said about the SpaceX contract.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the press statement said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement funding in the amount of $96,937,905 will be obligated at the time of award.”

ULA’s contract is for the launch of the AFSPC-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites to geosynchronous orbit.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the Air Force said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement; and fiscal 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation funding in the amount of $354,811,947 will be obligated at the time of award.”

Trump Calls for Space Force, Says We’re Going to Mars

Let me do a little fact checking in this 58 second clip.

Trump: “You see the rockets going up left and right. You haven’t seen that for a long time.”

— The U.S. has been number 1 or 2 in terms of launches for many years. And it has experienced far fewer failures than Russia over the past decade. Our launch rate is increasing thanks to SpaceX, but Trump’s claim that we were somehow lagging is ridiculous.

Trump: “Very soon, we’re going to Mars.”

— Umm…no, we’re not. The moon. Remember? We’re going back to the moon. You signed an executive order saying that like three months ago.

Trump: “You wouldn’t have been going to Mars if my opponent won. That I can tell you. You wouldn’t even be thinking about it.”

— To REPEAT: We’re NOT going to Mars with you in charge. At least not anytime soon.

Trump: “You know, I was saying the other day because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space, maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the space force. And I was not really serious, and then I said, ‘What a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do this.'”

— OK so, I seem to recall this proposal was debated for months and eventually rejected. So, it’s not a new idea Trump magically came up with just the other day. And the time to weigh in to support it was a couple of months ago. It’s kind of what presidents are supposed to do.

A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees


So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.

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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.