Design Evolution: Lockheed Martin is using 3-D Printed Parts for U.S. Military Satellites

New process cuts more than four months out of the manufacturing lead time for a component onboard the U.S. Air Force’s AEHF-6 satellite

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Lockheed Martin PR) — When the U.S. Air Force’s sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite launches into space, a 3-D printed part will be along for the ride. A Remote Interface Unit, an aluminum electronic enclosure designed to hold avionic circuits, will be the first 3-D printed part certified for use on a Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) military satellite.

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U.S. Air Force Open to Launching on Used SpaceX Falcon 9

Reused Falcon 9 first stage after landing on drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The head of U.S. Air Force Space Command has said the service is open to flying on a Falcon 9 rocket with a used first stage.

The comments, made by Gen. Jay Raymond during Space Symposium, could reflect the service’s willingness to use cutting-edge technologies to drive down the cost of launch services — that is, once the technology has been proven.

“This is just beginning. They’ve only flown one,” he said. “I think the industry is going to go this way. I think the reduced cost of this is going to drive industry this way. I don’t think we can say we won’t follow suit. We will make sure we do it in a smart way, and as this materializes we will make sure that we have the processes in place to do it safely and securely.”

SpaceX broke new ground March 30 with the launch and recovery of a Falcon 9 built with a previously-used first stage, and this week’s space bonanza provided a venue for the the company to take a victory lap. During a Wednesday speech, Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president and chief operating officer, called reusability a tremendous capability that ushers in a new era of space launch.

“I think the other launch providers, or most of the other launch providers — certainly the ones are flying now — think that it’s not worth it. That for their particular technology, it doesn’t work for them,” she said. “I think you’ll see that position changing, but it worked for us.”

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USAF Announces Major Changes to Space Enterprise

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — The Air Force announced five major organization and management changes to its space enterprise April 4, 2017.

“For decades, the men and women of our Air Force delivered effects from space to give our joint warfighting forces in the field a distinct advantage over their adversaries,” said acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa S. Disbrow. “The Air Force has been researching, experimenting, and implementing plans for several years to evolve our space systems to both protect our interests in space and be more resilient in the face of potential threats. The time has come to adapt our organization and management structure to reflect the reality that space is a joint warfighting domain.”
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ULA’s Delta IV Launches U.S. Air Force Satellite

Delta IV rocket launches the WGS-9 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., March 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on March 18 at 8:18 p.m. EST.

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SpaceX Wins U.S. Air Force Launch Contract

The Autonomous Flight Safety System first flew from the Eastern Range on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 Feb. 19, 2017. The use of AFSS reduces range space lift costs through reductions in range equipment maintenance and upgrades. (Credit: SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX a contract worth $96,500,490 to launch a GPS III satellite aboard a Falcon 9 booster.

The service announced the contract on a DOD procurement website on Tuesday. The announcement gives a completion date of April 30, 2019.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with two offers received,” the announcement states. United Launch Alliance (ULA) is the only other company with launch vehicles certified to fly payloads of this class.

The is the second contract the U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX for a GPS III launch. ULA did not submit a bid for the previous award.

NASA Astronauts Take Water Survival Training With U.S. Air Force

Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures Feb. 10, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Water survival training was hosted at the base fitness center pool. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

By Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey,
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) — Four NASA astronauts trained with U.S. Air Force Survival School instructors in water survival and recovery Feb. 10, at the base fitness center pool here.

The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.

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Atlas V Launches U.S. Air Force Satellite

ULA_logoCAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Jan. 20, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 3 satellite lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 Jan. 20 at 7:42 p.m. ET. SBIRS GEO Flight 3 is considered one of the nation’s highest priority space programs.

“ULA is proud to deliver this critical satellite which will improve surveillance capabilities for our national decision makers,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. “I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year.”

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Commerce, DOD Outline Space Achievements in Exit Memos

The GOES-R satellite will be NOAA's most sophisticated weather observation spacecraft and is expected to improve forecasts and tracking substantially. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
The GOES-R satellite will be NOAA’s most sophisticated weather observation spacecraft and is expected to improve forecasts and tracking substantially. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

The departments of Defense and Commerce have outlined their achievements in space in a pair of exit memos. The Obama Administration also outlined its space achievements in the Office of Science and Technology exit memo.

There is no mention in the Department of Transportation’s exit memo of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which is playing an increasingly important role in the sector.

Below are excerpts from those memos from the Defense and Commerce departments.
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White House Announces $110 Million in New Smallsat Investments

Spacecraft specialists prepare spacecraft to perform the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)
Spacecraft specialists prepare spacecraft to perform the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

Federal Agencies announce more than $100 million in new investments to develop small satellite systems and technology.

by Thomas Kalil
Deputy Director for Policy
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

This past October, the White House announced the “Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution” initiative. As part of the initiative, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other Federal agencies identified multiple opportunities to encourage both government and private sector use of small spacecraft for a variety of applications, some of which were showcased at The White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh.

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ULA Settles Allegations Relating to Kickbacks Paid to Its Employees by Subcontractor

ULA_logoDENVER (US DOJ PR) – United Launch Alliance (“ULA”), a defense contractor, has paid the United States $100,000 to settle allegations that its employees were paid kickbacks by a subcontractor in order to induce ULA to award contracts to the subcontractor.

ULA is an aerospace company providing spacecraft launch services to primarily governmental clients. The United States alleged that between July 2011 and July 2015, the owner of a ULA subcontractor, Apriori Technologies, Inc. (“Apriori”), paid gratuities to certain ULA employees in order to induce ULA to award technology, compliance and project management related contracts to Apriori. The United States alleged that certain Apriori-awarded subcontracts resulted in higher costs being billed by ULA to the U.S. Air Force. ULA voluntarily disclosed the allegations of misconduct to the United States.

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NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA’s investigation into the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship in June 2015 keeps getting more and more interesting.

I checked in again last week with the space agency about when it would be releasing a public report on the 18-month old accident. This is what a NASA spokesperson told me (emphasis mine):

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

That is a rather long time, even for a sometimes pokey government agency investigating the failure of a booster variant no longer in use.
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USAF Awards Minotaur I Launch Contract to Orbital ATK

Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)
Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The U.S. Air Force’s Rocket Systems Launch Program, part of the Launch Enterprise Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), awarded the National Reconnaissance Office Launch-111 contract to Orbital ATK.

The contract is a firm-fixed-price contract valued at $29.2 million for a Minotaur I launch vehicle. This was the first such award under the Orbital/Suborbital Program 3 (OSP-3) Lane 1 capability. The OSP-3 contract Lane 1 capability is for 400-4,000 lbs. (181-1,810 kg) to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and long-range, sub-orbital missions.

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ULA Delta IV Carries U.S. Air Force Satellite Into Orbit

A Delta IV rocket carries the WGS-8 satellite into orbit. (Credit: ULA)
A Delta IV rocket carries the WGS-8 satellite into orbit. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 7, 2016 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the eighth installment of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 Dec. 7 at 6:53 p.m. EDT. This is ULA’s 11th launch in 2016 and the 114th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

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Trump Threatens Boeing Air Force One Contract After CEO Criticizes Trade Policies

In what could be a preview of things to come, Donald Trump today threatened The Boeing Company with the cancellation of a $3 billion U.S. Air Force contract to replace the fleet of Air Force One aircraft.

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Delta IV Set to Launch Air Force Satellite on Wednesday Night

The U.S. Air Force's eighth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite, encapsulated in a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to a Delta IV booster at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37. (Credit: ULA)
The U.S. Air Force’s eighth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite, encapsulated in a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to a Delta IV booster at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the WGS-8 satellite for the US Air Force. The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Delta IV rocket on Wednesday, Dec. 7 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 6:53-7:42 p.m. EST. Today’s L-2 forecast shows a 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Webcast available at www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

Weather Forecast

Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints: 20%
Primary concern: Thick Cloud Layers
Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 40%
Primary concern: Thick Cloud Layers