Space Florida Negotiating to Bring New Launcher to Cape Canaveral

Space Florida is negotiating with an unidentified company to bring a new launch vehicle to Cape Canaveral. Speculation focuses Boeing’s XS-1 Phantom Express partially-reusable booster, which is a project being funded by DARPA.

If it bases operations on the Space Coast, the company referred to by the code name Project First Down over four years would bring an estimated 254 jobs with an average salary of $80,000.

“It strategically positions Florida in a good program going forward, as a preparation for what we hope will become the kind of launch cadence that we’ve been predicting five to 10 years out,” Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello told his board of directors Monday. “This really sets the stage for our ability to demonstrate that Florida can respond to that kind of demand.”

The company is a “credit-worthy, going concern with industry experience” and is evaluating multiple states with active spaceports, said Howard Haug, Space Florida’s executive vice president, treasurer and chief investment officer.

The company will commit to the Cape, Haug said, if Space Florida partners in an approximately $30 million investment that includes a deal to finance $13 million in long-lead equipment.

Read the full story.

Video: Dave Masten Talks 3D Printing Rocket Engines

Video Caption: This week we bring on guest Dave Masten to get an update of the happenings at Masten Space Systems. In addition to an update on the XS-1 project, we also talk about how Dave and crew is using additive manufacturing (3D printing) to create entire rocket engines. Interview starts at 16:59

Aerojet Rocketdyne Selected as Main Propulsion Provider for XS-1 Vehicle

DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program seeks to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would break the cycle of escalating launch costs and make possible a host of critical national security options. As the next step toward a future of routine, responsive, and low-cost space access, DARPA has awarded Phases 2 and 3 of the program to The Boeing Company. (Credit: Boeing)

LOS ANGELES, May 24, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), was selected to provide the main propulsion for the Boeing and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) reusable Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1). Aerojet Rocketdyne is a member of the Boeing team that recently announced an agreement to collaborate with DARPA to design, build and test a technology demonstrator for the agency’s XS-1 program.

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Boeing XS-1 Video

Video Caption: DARPA has selected The Boeing Company to complete advanced design work for the Agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, which aims to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space. The program aims to achieve a capability well out of reach today—launches to low Earth orbit in days, as compared to the months or years of preparation currently needed to get a single satellite on orbit. Success will depend upon significant advances in both technical capabilities and ground operations, but would revolutionize the Nation’s ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, upon which the Nation today is critically dependent.

In its pursuit of aircraft-like operability, reliability, and cost-efficiency, DARPA and Boeing are planning to conduct a flight test demonstration of XS-1 technology, flying 10 times in 10 days, initially without an upper stage. If successful, the program could help enable a commercial service in the future that could operate with recurring costs of as little as $5 million or less per launch, including the cost of an expendable upper stage, assuming a recurring flight rate of at least ten flights per year—a small fraction of the cost of launch systems the U.S. military currently uses for similarly sized payloads. (Note that goal is for actual cost, not commercial price, which would be determined in part by market forces.)

DARPA Picks Boeing for XS-1 Program

DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program seeks to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would break the cycle of escalating launch costs and make possible a host of critical national security options. As the next step toward a future of routine, responsive, and low-cost space access, DARPA has awarded Phases 2 and 3 of the program to The Boeing Company. (Credit: Boeing)

WASHINGTON, DC (DARPA PR) — DARPA has selected The Boeing Company to complete advanced design work for the Agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, which aims to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space.

The program aims to achieve a capability well out of reach today—launches to low Earth orbit in days, as compared to the months or years of preparation currently needed to get a single satellite on orbit.

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Masten Achieves First Hot-Fire of Broadsword Rocket Engine

Broadsword 25 hot fire (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) – On September 30, 2016, Masten Space Systems successfully concluded the 13-month design, build, and test period for the first development unit of the Broadsword 25 rocket engine, funded as a technology demonstration under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. This first phase of the engine development effort included commissioning Masten’s largest mobile engine test stand and firing of the company’s highest-thrust rocket engine to date.

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Vector Space Systems Receives NASA Award for Launch Vehicle

P20 rocket (Credit: Vector Space Systems)
P20 rocket (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 8, 2016 (Vector Space PR) — Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced that NASA has selected its Phase II proposal under the 2015 SBIR/STTR program to continue development of an advanced prototype of the upper stage for the Vector-R launch vehicle.

The contract, proposed through Vector’s acquired Garvey Spacecraft Corporation subsidiary, complements an earlier SBIR award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that addresses the use of the Vector-R first stage as a second stage for the XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane. In conjunction with the awarded contracts, totaling approximately $2.5M, Vector is investing in related infrastructure and range site preparations to enable high performance flight testing by the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Entrepreneurial Lingo Lesson: The Pivot

twist_chubby1_disrupt copy
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words

Come on let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

Do you remember when,
ROI was really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again,
Pivotin’ time is here!

Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go!
Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!

Let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.

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DARPA Releases XS-1 Phase II/III Solicitation

Credit: DARPA
Credit: DARPA

DARPA released a solicitation for bids for its XS-1 Phase II/III program on Monday. The private-public partnership includes $140 million in DARPA funding for the reusable booster. According to the solicitation:

“The overall objective of the XS 1 Phase II/III program is to design, build, and flight test a reusable booster system prototype to support an upper stage capable of inserting a minimum of 3,000 pounds to orbit, with a design goal of less than $5M cost per launch for an operational system. The program will demonstrate on-demand and routine flight operations by flying the booster ten times in ten days and launch a demonstration payload greater than 900 pounds to orbit.

“This program solicitation solicits proposals that either, 1) propose a system at a preliminary design review level of rigor tailored for a demonstration rather than an acquisition program, or 2) propose a preliminary design derived from vehicle hardware the proposer has developed and tested. Phase II includes the final design, fabrication, integration, assembly, and ground test of the XS-1 reusable booster system prototype. Phase III is the flight test campaign.”

The solicitation is open to all U.S. companies. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Masten Space Systems received contracts under Phase I.

The deadline is July 22.

XS-1 Moves Forward, Stratolaunch Booster Remains Mystery

Credit: DARPA
Credit: DARPA

A couple of program updates that I wrote for Space.com in recent weeks:

US Military’s Satellite-Launching XS-1 Space Plane Could Fly in 2019

DARPA has received authorization to spend $146 million on the next phases of the program, which is enough to select one of the three companies and move forward. It’s not enough to finish the program, so the selected company will need to come up with funds of its own. DARPA hopes to down select by the end of the year.

Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman are the leads for phase 1 of the program. However, phases 2 and 3 are open to all U.S. aerospace companies. DARPA had an industry day for the project on April 29.

What lies at the end of the rainbow. Stratolaunch Systems, that's what. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
What lies at the end of the rainbow? Stratolaunch Systems, that’s what. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Rocket for Giant Satellite-Launching Stratolaunch Airplane Remains a Mystery

Birdzilla remains more zilla than bird. The plane is still under construction, but the company has yet to announce what rocket(s) it will use.

The most recent update I’ve heard through the grapevine is that much of the aircraft is assembled. That’s a good sign, but it could also mean that much of the interior work — which can take a long time — remains to be done.

Last year, the company said it were considering more than 70 different booster configurations, which means they were talking to everyone and anyone with a rocket, an engine or plans for them.

In July, I asked Chuck Beames whether Burt Rutan & Scaled has once again put the flying machine ahead of the rocket, as they did with SpaceShipTwo. He said no, and assured me that they would make an announcement about the booster(s) in the fall.

That time came and went. Officials now say that they expect to make a series of announcements in the coming future.

Masten Selected for SBIR Contract for Mars LOX/Methane Ascent Engine

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)
The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten’s XA-0.1B “Xombie” vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)be

NASA has selected Masten Space Systems for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award to begin work on a25 klb thrust liquid oxygen/methane Mars ascent engine.

“Woohoo! We get to build a 25klb thrust LOX/CH4 engine for !” founder Dave Masten wrote on Twitter. “Or at least selected for a Phase I SBIR.”

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XS-1 Program Enters Phase II

Credit: DARPA
Credit: DARPA

WASHINGTON (DARPA PR) — In an era of declining budgets and adversaries’ evolving capabilities, quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security. Current satellite launch systems, however, require scheduling years in advance for an extremely limited inventory of available slots. Moreover, launches often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, due in large part to the massive amounts of dedicated infrastructure and large number of personnel required.

DARPA created its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to help overcome these challenges and create a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations, reducing the time to get capabilities to space.

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DARPA Plans XS-1 Industry Day for April 29

XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

WASHINGTON (DARPA PR) — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) is sponsoring a Proposers Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of the XS-1 program in advance of a planned Phase II and III Program Solicitation (PS). The Proposers Day will be held on Friday, April 29, 2016 at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 North Randolph Street, Arlington, VA 22203-2114 from 1:00PM to 4:30PM Eastern Time. Advance registration is required. A live webcast will be available for those who cannot attend in person.

The overall objective of the XS-1 Phase II and III program is to design, build, and flight test a reusable booster system to support an expendable upper stage capable of inserting 3,000 pounds to orbit, with a design goal of less than $5M cost per launch for an operational system. The program will demonstrate on-demand and rapid operations by flying the booster ten times in ten days and launching a demonstration payload greater than 900 pounds to orbit. Based on the results of Phase I, DARPA anticipates awarding Phase II and III of the XS-1 program using an other transaction for prototype agreement. Refer to the attachment, “DARPA-SN-16-29 4-7-2016,” for complete details of this Special Notice including registration instructions.

Details

DARPA SBIR Awards for XS-1 & Rocket Technologies

XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)
XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)

I was conducting some research into Defense Department Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to see what space and rocket projects it has been funding.  I found a group of SBIR Phase I contracts awarded by DARPA in 2015, most of them related to the XS-1 launcher program. I don’t think I’ve written about them previously.

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