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.

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Trump to Nominate Former Aerospace Corporation Chairwoman for USAF Secretary

Barbara Barrett

President Donald Trump tweeted today that he planned to nominate former Aerospace Corporation Chairwoman Barbara Barrett to replace Heather Wilson as U.S. Air Force secretary.

Barrett, 68, is a businesswoman , politician and former diplomat. Her business career includes serving as:  the founding chairwoman of Valley Bank of Arizona; a partner in a Phoenix law firm; and as executives in two Fortune 500 companies.

In 1994, she ran unsuccessfully for governor of Arizona as a Republican. Barrett served as U.S. ambassador to Finland in 2008-09 under President George W. Bush. She also served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Barrett was the first civilian female to land in an F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter on an aircraft carrier. She trained in Russia as an astronaut and was the backup to Canadian space tourist Guy Laliberte for the Soyuz TM-16 flight to the International Space Station in 2009.

Barrett also served as deputty administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.

Three USAF Experimental Satellites Launched Aboard Electron Rocket

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The U.S. Air Force and its mission partners has successfully launched three Department of Defense research and development satellites on Huntington Beach-based Rocket Lab USA’s Electron rocket from Mahia, New Zealand at 11:00 p.m. PST, May 4, 2019 and  6:00 p.m. NZST May 5, 2019.

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Inside the SpaceX Falcon Heavy’s Most Challenging Payload Yet

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

Aerospace packed two dozen satellites inside the nose cone of the world’s most powerful rocket.

EL SEGUNDO, Cali. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — It’s a little like trying to fit as many people as possible into a Nissan Leaf.

But in this case, Aerospace is overseeing the process of safely packing more than two dozen satellites into the nose cone of a giant SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

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Air Force Releases Proposal Request for Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement Contract

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) — The Space and Missile Systems Center, in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office, released a request for proposals May 3, for the purpose of competitively awarding firm fixed-price, indefinite-delivery requirements contracts to two domestic launch service providers. These “Launch Service Procurement” contracts are for National Security Space launch service procurements in fiscal year 2020 through 2024 for missions launching through 2027.

This solicitation strategy is a full and open competition allowing companies to compete for procurement contracts regardless of whether they have a current Launch Service Agreement development contract.

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ATLAS Space Operations Awarded Project with Space and Missile Systems Center and Defense Innovation

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., (Atlas Space Operations PR)–ATLAS Space Operations, Inc., a leading innovator in ground communications for the space industry, today announced an agreement to develop its LINKS platform with the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The competitively awarded rapid prototyping program will run for 12 months, and will deliver a complete satellite communications platform tailored to the Air Force’s Multi-Band Multi-Mission requirements, as outlined by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Range and Network Systems Division.

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NASA to Launch New Technologies on Next Falcon Heavy Flight

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A new kind of atomic clock, non-toxic propellant system and missions to characterize how space weather interferes with satellites and communication transmissions are one step closer to liftoff. With the second-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch complete, these NASA technologies await the powerful rocket’s next flight.

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US Air Force Selects Slingshot Aerospace to Bring AI to SSA

SpaceNews reports the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded a two-year $6 million contract to Slingshot Aerospace of Los Angeles to customize its artificial intelligence space situational awareness software for military use.

The commercially developed Orbital Atlas “will enable warfighters to pivot from traditional space situational awareness focusing on space catalog maintenance toward a more tactical, predictive solution,” said Melanie Stricklan, chief technology officer and co-founder of Slingshot Aerospace.

The company uses artificial intelligence to analyze data from satellites, aerial drones and other sources. Slingshot announced the Air Force award on Friday and will be demonstrating the Orbital Atlas this week at the Space Symposium’s “Orbit Lounge.”

The contract was a competitive award by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Superiority Systems Directorate. “SMC is eager to tap into the innovations of artificial intelligence and cloud computing,” Stricklan said.

Rocket Lab to Launch 3 More Defense Satellites Later This Month

Ellectron launches NASA’s Venture Class CubeSats. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., April 3, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) — U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab announced today that it will launch three experimental research and development (R&D) satellites for the U.S. Air Force in April. The mission will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying three R&D spacecraft to Low Earth Orbit aboard an Electron launch vehicle. The launch will be Rocket Lab’s second orbital mission of 2019, and fifth orbital mission overall.
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Debate Rages Over Usefulness of Pentagon’s New Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

A debate has raged in the Pentagon over whether the new Space Development Agency will transform the acquisition of new systems, or merely unnecessarily duplicate existing capabilities within the Defense Department’s sprawling bureaucracy.

On one side of the argument are the agency’s champions, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Griffin oversees the new agency, which is run by Fred Kennedy.

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National Space Council to Meet Next Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Saturn V Hall, Davidson Center for Space Exploration, U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Panel 1: “Ready to Fly”

  • Gen. Les Lyles, USAF (ret.), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Col. Eileen Collins, USAF (ret.), former Shuttle commander
  • Dr. Sandy Magnus, former Shuttle astronaut

Panel 2: “Ready to Explore”

  • Dan Dumbacher, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Dr. Jack Burns, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Wanda Sigur, independent consultant

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches WGS-10 Mission

A Delta IV rocket carrying the tenth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 15, 2019 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the tenth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the U.S. Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on March 15 at 8:26 p.m. EDT. ULA has been the exclusive launch provider for all ten WGS satellites.

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Pentagon Seeks $14.1 Billion for Military Space Programs

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Department of Defense (DOD) has requested to spend $14.1 billion on space programs in FY 2020, an amount that includes the establishment of a Space Force within the U.S. Air Force and a new Space Development Agency.

“The FY 2020 budget accelerates our efforts to move to a defendable space posture, which is critical as our adversaries continue to develop capabilities to counter our advantages in space,” the DOD said in budget documents. “This budget invests in the survivable and resilient Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system and continues modernization of our GPS satellites communications systems and space warfighting enterprise.”

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ULA Delta IV WGS-10 Mission Set to Launch on Friday

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the WGS-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force. The mission is set to lift off on Friday, March 15 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Today’s forecast shows a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch window begins at 6:56 p.m. ET and extends to 9:05 p.m. ET.

Live broadcast coverage of launch will begin at 6:35 p.m. ET on March 15. Live launch updates and webcast available at: www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance
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USAF Secretary Heather Wilson Resigns

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has resigned her position to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso, officials confirmed today.

Her resignation is effective on May 31. She assumed office on May 16, 2017, meaning her tenure will last just over two years.

“I am proud of the progress that we have made in restoring out nation’s defense,” Wilson said in a statement. “We have cut years out of acquisition schedules and gotten better prices through competition; we have repealed hundreds of superfluous regulations; and we have strengthened our ability to deter and dominate in space.”

The Air Force secretary had clashed with the White House over the proposed Space Force. President Donald Trump wanted it to be a separate, sixth branch of the Armed Forces. Wilson, whose views prevailed in a proposal now before Congress, wanted it to be a new command within the Air Force.