Suborbinomics: The Astronomical Cost of Getting From Point A to Point A

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Resplendent in a blue Virgin Galactic flight suit, Richard Branson was in an exuberant mood as he sat at the New York Stock Exchange doing a TV interview on Oct. 28, 2019. His space tourism company had just gone public in a $774 million merger with billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia special purpose acquisition company.

Virgin Galactic now had an estimated market value of more than $2.2 billion despite never having flown a single passenger or earned any serious revenue in 15 years. Virgin Galactic would have $450 million to complete its flight test program and begin commercial flights — if the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings were to be believed — in June 2020. Branson and the Mubadala Investment Company, an Abu Dhabi government sovereign wealth fund, would divide up $274 million to offset about $1 billion in investment made thus far.

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Navy Helicopters and Air Force Pararescue Forces Conduct Astronaut Recovery Exercise

Air Force pararescue forces from the 48th rescue squadron remove a mock-astronaut from a SpaceX Dragon capsule during a validation exercise. The exercise was meant to validate the joint-capability of Navy helicopter squadrons and Air Force Guardian Angel Pararescue forces in their shared mission to recover astronauts at sea. (Credit: U.S. Space Command/Sean Castellano)

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo.  (U.S. Space Command PR) –  U.S. Space Command held an exercise Aug. 1-5 at Patrick Space Force Base, Fl., in preparation for the upcoming launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5, targeted for no earlier than September 29, 2022.

As the Department of Defense’s Human Space Flight Support Manager, USSPACECOM coordinates global DoD support for the rescue and recovery of human exploration events for NASA’s Artemis and Commercial Crew Program missions.

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U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command Awards Inmarsat Government 10-year, $578 Million Next Generation Wideband Follow-on Contract

LONDON (Inmarsat PR) — Inmarsat Government today announced that the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has awarded Inmarsat Government the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) Next Generation Wideband (NGW) Follow-On (FO) Contract for worldwide end-to-end commercial satellite communications services. An Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, the ceiling value of the award is $578M over a 10-year period. Under the contract, Inmarsat Government will maintain and operate commercial communications infrastructure, which includes satellite systems, teleport services and terrestrial services.

For the past decade, Inmarsat Government, the leading provider of secure, global, mission-critical telecommunications to the U.S. Government, has demonstrated its ability to deliver highly robust, exceptionally reliable, global satellite communications (SATCOM) solutions to MSC. Under this newly awarded FO contract, the company will also upgrade the primary afloat network from Ku to the Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band system, paired with Inmarsat ELERA’s enhanced L-band Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (LAISR) service to provide a uniquely reliable, global back-up network. This combination of networks ensures that MSC has secure global communications, delivering a high-throughput, low size and weight solution.

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Kleos Executes Agreement with US Navy for Maritime Domain Awareness Exercise

LUXEMBOURG (Kleos Space PR) — Kleos Space Inc. (US subsidiary of Kleos Space S.A), a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) and Mission-as-a-Service provider (MaaS), announces successful execution of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Division, Crane (NSWC Crane) for joint data experimentation.

Under the CRADA agreement, Kleos will provide its radio frequency (RF) geolocation data in realistic test scenarios to improve maritime domain awareness for real-world challenges, including sanctions reporting, embargo, transshipment monitoring, search and rescue, resource management, fisheries control, smuggling, and border control.

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Tic Tac Oh! Are Strange Objects Sighted in U.S. Skies Extraterrestrial?

They’re unidentified objects that fly…just don’t call them UFO’s!
They’re not saying it’s aliens…but they’re not saying it’s not
Congress holding first hearing in more than 50 years on Tuesday

Part II of II

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During my recent visit to Roswell, NM, I toured a museum that posited the U.S. government covered up the crash of a spaceship with four aliens on a ranch outside the city 75 years ago. Although I came away far from convinced this actually happened, there was one thing I saw there that was seemed quite credible. (Part I: The Truth is Out There, Just Maybe Not in Roswell)

I wandered into the museum’s small theater, which was showing an Australian news report on what the Pentagon has labeled unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) — what back in the day were known as unidentified flying objects (UFOs). (Apparently the DoD decided a rebrand was needed to make them sound less crackpotty.)

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Adranos Closes $20 Million Series A Round

Adranos tactical-scale solid rocket motor test fire completed in 2021. (Credit: Adranos)

The solid rocket motor manufacturer will use the investment to advance R&D and scale its production capacity to meet growing customer demand

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Adranos PR) — Adranos, Inc, the West Lafayette, Indiana-based startup that manufactures next-generation solid rocket motors, today announced a $20 million Series A funding round with participation from Bob Bishop and other principals at Impala Asset Management LLC and several other entities, including Explorer1 Fund, Elevate Ventures, and Specific Impulse Capital. This round brings the total capital raised by the company to date to over $25 million.

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DOD Leaders Say Russia, China Provide Challenges to National Security

A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Jan. 6, 2020, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket, carrying an installment of Starlink satellites, was the first official launch of the United States Space Force. (Credit: Air Force Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

By David Vergun
DOD News

Every operational plan in the Defense Department rests on an assumption that strategic deterrence is holding, and in particular, that nuclear deterrence is holding, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said. 

“If strategic or nuclear deterrence fails, no other plan and no other capability in the Department of Defense is going to work as designed,” Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, who testified today at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in review of the fiscal year 2023 Defense Authorization Request and Future Years Defense Program, said. 

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Capella Space Awarded Commercial Radar Contract By National Reconnaissance Office

Capella will demonstrate high-resolution SAR imagery capabilities as part of the National Reconnaissance Office’s Broad Agency Announcement Framework for Strategic Commercial Enhancements

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 20, 2022 (Capella Space PR) — Capella Space, an information services company providing high-quality, high-speed Earth observation data on demand, today announced a new contract with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to demonstrate the company’s synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery capabilities. Through this contract, Capella will work with the NRO to provide SAR data modeling and simulation, end-to-end regional imagery responsiveness demonstrations, theater downlink demonstrations and sample imagery delivery.

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NRL/NASA Experiment Launched to Study Origins of Solar Energetic Particles

The UltraViolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder undergoes inspection after the successful completion of its thermal vacuum test at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The front, gold-colored, aperture shows the multiple external occulters that will block direct light from the solar disk. The occultation allows the faint solar corona to be observed at Lyman-alpha wavelengths. The UVSC instrument sits on a transport cart, which is not part of the flight package. (Credit: U.S. Navy)

By Paul Cage
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

WASHINGTON  –  A joint-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/NASA experiment prepares to investigate the origins of Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) that could affect Navy satellites and harm personnel during future crewed missions to the moon and beyond.

Researchers will use a new instrument, the Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder (UVSC Pathfinder) to try to understand the origins of these particles, how they’re generated close into the sun to provide accurate space weather forecasting when these events happen.

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Space Force Selects More Than 900 Personnel to Transfer in FY 2022

ARLINGTON, VA (AFNS) — The Space Force, working with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, has selected 670 active-duty service members and 259 civilians to transfer into the Space Force during fiscal year 2022. These volunteers come from the pool of candidates who applied in March 2021 and members who are currently assigned to Army and Navy units slated to transfer into the new service.

These new selects join the initial tranche of 50 selects announced in June 2021 and once transferred into the Space Force, they will account for about seven percent of the service, which totals nearly 13,000 military and civilians today.

“Successfully integrating the units, capabilities and people from Sister Services into the Space Force is critical to our mission and was one of the driving forces in creating the new service,” said Gen. David D. Thompson, Vice Chief of Space Operations. “We look forward to welcoming these Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and civilians into our force and encourage them to apply their experiences and perspectives to help us meet the needs of the Joint Force and shape a unique service culture.”

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U.S. Navy Establishes Maritime Space Officer Designator for Joint Warfighting Effort

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo.  (U.S. Space Command PR) – U.S. Space Command is focused on building the command to compete and win, as it heads into its third year as America’s 11th Combatant Command. A huge part of that focus is to ensure space warfighters from each service have the technical knowledge and tactical acumen to integrate into the full range of joint space capabilities.

Each service brings unique talents to the Joint Force, and most recently, the U.S. Navy announced the establishment of the Maritime Space Officer designator.

“These sailors will integrate into our operations to help deter, compete and win against our nation’s most formidable competitors in space,” said U.S. Army Gen. Jim Dickinson, USSPACECOM commander. “All joint partnerships across the Department of Defense are pertinent to continue projecting global power with space capabilities.”

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Army, Navy SATCOM Mission Areas Shifting to U.S. Space Force

WASHINGTON (U.S. Space Force PR) — The Chief of Space Operations announced the transfer of Army and Navy satellite communications billets, funding and mission responsibility to the U.S. Space Force.

Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond made the announcement at the Air Force Association meeting in Washington, yesterday. The transfers are scheduled to be effective Oct. 1, 2021, if the DOD budget is passed and signed.

“We’re one team with our sister services and over the last year-and-a-half we have worked with the Army and the Navy and the Air Force to determine which capabilities come over to the Space Force,” Raymond said. “The intent was to consolidate (and) increase our operational capability; increase our readiness and do so in a more efficient manner.”

The changes are “a first tranche,” he said.

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First Soldiers, Sailors, Marines Selected for Transfer to U.S. Space Force

ARLINGTON, VA. (AFNS) — The Space Force working with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps have selected 50 active-duty volunteers from those Services to transfer into the Space Force beginning July 2021. This initial group of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines will test out the integration efforts established by the Services to pave the way for a larger group of volunteers transferring in fiscal year 2022.

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SpaceX Leases Property at Port of Long Beach

Long Beach Harbor property leased by SpaceX. (Credit; Google Maps)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Long Beach Harbor Commission has unanimously approved a two-year lease with SpaceX for Elon Musk’s company to use a marine terminal for the recovery of Falcon 9 first stages.

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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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