Wilson, Griffin at Odds Over How to Create Military Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

Space News reports that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who serves as undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, are at odds over how to create a new space development agency designed to transform how the military creates advanced space technologies.

In her memo, Wilson suggests the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office and that it should be geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command. She recommends using “existing structures designed and chartered to acquire capabilities rapidly, rather than establishing new structures.”

Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress.

In Wilson’s plan, the Space Development Agency and other acquisition organizations would transition to the new Department of the Space Force. She pointedly pushes back on the idea of having an assistant secretary of defense for space or a Space Development Agency that reports to that office. She argues that such a setup would create additional bureaucracy that would be removed from the operators who use and maintain the equipment.

The space development agency is part of an effort by the Trump Administration to establish an independent space force within the Department of Defense.

U.S. Air Force Secretary Wilson Could Be Fired

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson

Foreign Policy reports that U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson might be on the way out because President Donald Trump is angry over slow progress on setting up an independent space force.

Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, recently angered Trump as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Defense Secretary James Mattis’s second in command, with what is seen as a campaign to undermine the Space Force effort, the sources said.

The news comes just weeks after an explosive new book by journalist Bob Woodward alleged that members of Trump’s Cabinet, including Mattis himself, are quietly trying to undercut or slow roll the president’s orders. An anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times last month described similar resistance within the administration.

In the current case, the administration believes Wilson also “is trying to undermine this part of the president’s agenda from within,” said one source with knowledge of the internal debate.

“Some senior officials know how to disagree with [the president] without being disagreeable to him. Heather Wilson hasn’t managed to do that. Her opposition to the Space Force has grated on him and I think he permanently sees her as troublesome and ineffective now,” an administration official told FP.

U.S. Air Force Designates GOLauncherOne Hypersonic Flight Research Vehicle as X-60A

GOLauncherOne hypersonic vehixcle. (Credit: Generation Orbit)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (USAF PR) – The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 (GO1) hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A.  The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

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Trump’s Space Force to Cost $13 Billion to Establish

Defense News reports the U.S. Ar Force has estimated it will cost $13 billion over five years to establish an independent space force.

In a Sept. 14 memo obtained by Defense News and signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the service laid out its proposal to transition its space functions to a sixth branch of the military known as the Space Force.

Notably, the Air Force’s Space Force proposal pushes back on a previous proposal, put forth by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, in several key ways, including advocating for increased integration with the National Reconnaissance Office and objecting to the White House’s plan to install an assistant secretary of defense for space to help guide the transition.

In an exclusive Sept. 17 interview with Defense News, Wilson said her intention was not to hit back at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, but to provide an alternative way to execute President Donald Trump’s direction to create a Space Force….

The proposal put forward by the Air Force would strip all space capability and personnel from the existing services, but even then, there will be additional funding needed to run a new space branch.

NASA’s IceSat-2 Satellite Set for Launch From Vandenberg on Saturday

This image shows the ATLAS instrument inside a Goddard cleanroom where the instrument was assembled. (Credits: NASA/D. McCallum)

NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, a mission to measure the changing height of Earth’s ice, is scheduled to launch Saturday, Sept. 15, with a 40-minute window opening at 5:46 a.m. PDT (8:46 a.m. EDT).

The spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the final launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing weather officer reported they are predicting a 100 percent chance of favorable weather on launch day.

Be sure to follow along during the live coverage events below.

NASA EDGE Tower Rollback Show, Friday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT)

Watch live at:

NASA TV: www.nasa.gov/nasalive
NASA EDGE Facebook: www.facebook.com/nasaedgefan
NASA LSP Facebook: www.facebook.com/NASALSP
NASA EDGE YouTube: www.youtube.com/NASAedge
NASA EDGE Ustream: www.usream.tv/nasaedge

Guests:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington
  • Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 project manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Kelly Brunt, ICESat-2 science team member, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Rex Engelhardt, mission manager, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Mic Woltman, chief, Fleet Systems Integration Branch, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Tim Dunn, launch director, NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Tom Neumann, ICESat-2 deputy project scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, ATLAS instrument project manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Dana VanDersaral, mission assurance team, United Launch Alliance

Live Launch Coverage, Saturday, Sept. 15, 5:10 a.m. PDT (8:10 a.m. EDT)
Join us for updates from the countdown, here on the blog and on NASA TV.

Review: Rocket Billionaires Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos Battle for Control of Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race
by Tim Fernholz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
304 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-328-66223-1
US$28

In 2004, a small vehicle named SpaceShipOne built by Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites and funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen flew three suborbital flights, becoming the first privately-built crewed craft to exit the Earth’s atmosphere. For their efforts, Rutan and Allen won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Rutan quickly teamed with another billionaire, Richard Branson, to build a successor vehicle named SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic that would carry two pilots and six passengers on commercial suborbital flights as early as 2007. It didn’t quite work out as planned; 14 years later, SpaceShipTwo hasn’t flown anyone to space.

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U.S. Air Force Selects SSL to Define Next-generation Secure Satellite Communications


HERNDON, Va.,
August 16, 2018 (SSL PR) SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that SSL was selected to help define next generation protected communications for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. SSL will develop, test and analyze antenna subsystem prototypes through a contract with the Space Enterprise Consortium, managed by Advanced Technology International. The award highlights SSL’s ability to contribute to U.S. leadership in space with novel concepts for the U.S. Department of Defense’s next-generation spacecraft systems.

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Trump’s Call for Space Force Will Have to Wait


It looks as if President Donald Trump’s call for the establishment of a “separate but equal” space force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military will have to wait at least another year.

There is no mention of a space force in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019 that was worked out by members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) earlier this week.

Last year, the two committees commissioned a report on how a separate space force could be established. With an interim report not due until Aug. 1, the committee members avoided the subject in the FY 2019 NDAA.

A separate space force would largely be carved out of the U.S. Air Force, which handles most space-related military functions. However, units from other branches of the service would likely be folded into the new force.

The NDAA conference report did include a section calling for the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a space warfighting policy. The HASC released the following summary of that section.

Space Warfighting

Russia and China are developing capabilities to deny the United States the advantages we derive from operating in Space. Equally concerning is the inability of the organizations responsible for the nation’s national security-related Space activities to prepare for Space to become a warfighting domain and to adequately develop and/or acquire essential national security Space systems.

Efforts to reform the Department’s approach to Space issues can be summarized in four equally important elements: acquisition reform, resources, cadre development, and joint warfighting. The NDAA comprehensively addresses each one of these to ensure that our Servicemembers are ready to defend our vital national interests in Space. The conference report also ensures that the Department’s Space investments are being executed in a way to ensure increased agility, lethality, and accountability. The NDAA:

  • Directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative process for Space-related acquisitions.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to improve the quality of the Space cadre within the Air Force.
  • Establishes a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for Space as a warfighting domain.
  • Supports the President’s request for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, Protected Satellite Communications, and the Air Force’s Space launch efforts.

Vandenberg Consolidates Operations on Western Launch Range

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

By Michael Peterson
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The 30th Range Management Squadron inactivated and merged with the 2nd Range Operations Squadron here, July 10. The reorganization allows all range mission assurance operations to be conducted under a single chain of command. This combining of responsibilities allows two similar mission sets to continue providing a unified front for the Western Range.

“This process will empower our squadrons to push responsibility to our experts in the field and streamline our range management capabilities.” said Lt. Col. Max Coberly, 30th RMS commander. “This merger will offer our squadrons more flexibility in responding to the challenges of the range.”

“Since the activation of the 30th RMS in 2002, the unit has enabled 142 launches from Vandenberg,” said Col. Curtis Hernandez, 30th Operations Group commander. “The unit has also placed 73 satellites into orbit, valued at over 53.6 billion dollars, providing critical nation defense and commercial industry capabilities that protect and enable the American and global way of life.”

The 30th RMS inactivation and merge into the 2nd ROPS is a major step taken by the 30th Space Wing to reach its mission goal of “providing robust, relevant and efficient spaceport and range capabilities for the nation.”

“This Wing provides range support for nationally critical missions.” said Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander. “We have to position ourselves to provide efficient, flexible range capabilities.”

The move to combine squadrons returns the decision-making down to the lower levels, improves readiness, and unifies the efforts of the wing towards the same goal while removing unnecessary barriers brought on by duplicated responsibilities. With the unified commands, Lt. Col. Meredith Beg, 2nd ROPS commander, sees the groundwork for an improved Western Range capability.

“The 30th RMS has made significant contributions to the defense of our nation, and cemented America’s current position as the dominant space power on this planet,” said Hernandez. “We will ensure America’s access to space is agile, efficient and lethal. This is an inactivation of a unit that maintained Vandenberg’s relevance to the nation and the planet, and has ensured our legacy into the future.”

Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

DOD Awards $69.8 Million More to Aerojet Rocketdyne for AR-1, RL-10CX Development

Staged-combustion testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for the AR1 program is being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

WASHINGTON, DC (DOD PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California, has been awarded a $69,804,323 modification (P00014) to a previously awarded other transaction agreement (FA8811-16-9-0003) for the development of the AR1 booster engine and the RL10CX upper stage engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

This action implements Section 1604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015, which requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches.

Work will be performed in Canoga Park, California; Sacramento, California; Centennial, Colorado; Huntsville, Alabama; Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. The work on the AR1 is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, and the work on the RL10CX is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.

Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds in the amount of $63,014,148; and fiscal 2018 RDT&E funds in the amount of $20,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award. The Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, California, is the contracting activity.

SpaceX Wins Contract for U.S. Air Force Launch

Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its demonstration flight. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

LOS ANGELES (SpaceX PR) — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a $130,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite to its intended orbit.

This launch service contract will include launch vehicle production and mission, as well as integration, launch operations and spaceflight worthiness activities. Work will be performed in Hawthorne, California; Kennedy Space Center, Florida; and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be completed by September 2020.

This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, and two proposals were received. Fiscal 2018 space procurement funds in the amount of $130,000,000 will be obligated at the time of award. The Contracting Division, Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity (FA8811-18-C-0003). (Awarded June 20, 2018)

Trump Forgets Congress Exists, Orders Creation of Space Force

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Earlier today, Donald Trump bragged about the booming economy, defended his policy of separating refugee parents from their children, declared that one of his favorite places to visit is Alabama, and threatened to fire a new agency head if he screwed up.

In other words, a pretty standard rally speech he probably gave in Birmingham, Montgomery or someplace else in the Yellowhammer State (it’s a bird).

Only, in this case, he was in the White House at the third meeting of the National Space Council, whose agenda focused on space traffic management and how to leverage commercial activities in exploring the moon.

Trump didn’t disappoint here, either. Overshadowing the progress in these areas and the efforts of his vice president, Mike Pence, who chairs the council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to create an independent, separate but equal branch of the military: the Space Force. This new military service, which would be carved primarily out of the U.S. Air Force, would enable the America to dominate space, the president said.

Of course, Trump can’t simply order the Pentagon to do something so momentous; it will require the ascent of Congress, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) helpfully pointed out.

A similar message came from the office of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy,” spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. “Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”

So, stay tuned. The political fight has just begun.

Rescue Operations Take Shape for Commercial Crew Program Astronauts

Pararescue specialists secure a covered life raft as the sun sets during an astronaut rescue training exercise off of Florida’s eastern coast in April. The specially designed 20-person life raft is equipped with enough food, water and medical supplies to sustain both rescuers and crew for up to three days, if necessary. (Credit: NASA)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — As a child watching Apollo 11 land on the Moon, Ted Mosteller dreamed of working for the space program. As leader of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Landing and Recovery Team, he directs a multi-agency operation to rescue astronauts in emergency landing scenarios.

“It’s like insurance,” he said. “You have insurance on your car or house, but you hope you never have to use it.”

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