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Transformers: Space

"Vice President Mike Pence is confirmed to speak at The Washington Post on October 23 as part of a "Transformers: Space" event. Pence, who serves as chairman of the National Space Council, will talk one-on-one with National Political Reporter Robert Costa about the Trump administration's plan to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military and other important space policy matters."

National Space Council Meeting

President Donald J. Trump Is Launching America's Space Force

"The six recommendations presented to the President call for:

-- Forming a United States Space Command to control our space forces and develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures for military space operations.
-- Establishing the Space Force as a separate and distinct branch of the military whose mission will be to organize, train, and equip combat space forces.
-- Calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a Space Force and provide funding for the United States Space Command.
-- Launching a joint review by the National Space Council and National Security Council of existing space operational authorities for meeting national security objectives, informed by DOD's assessment of the authorities required.
-- Creating a Space Development Agency to ensure Americans in the Space Force have cutting-edge warfighting capabilities.
-- Creating collaborative mechanisms with the Intelligence Community to improve unity of efforts for the development of space capabilities and operations."

Shanahan downplays disagreements over Space Force structure, Defense News

"Days after the Air Force released a Space Force memo that seemed to contradict a plan laid out by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the number two at the Pentagon downplayed any differences of opinion."

Wilson: $13 billion Space Force cost estimate is 'conservative'", Space News

"Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said her initial $13 billion cost estimate to stand up a Space Force and sustain it for five years is likely to be revised upward as more data is crunched. In a detailed memo submitted on Friday to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Wilson provided the first glimpse into the potential cost, size and makeup of a military branch for space. The $13 billion projected cost over five years is based on a force of 13,000 people, including a headquarters of about 2,400."

New Space Force price tag fuels Capitol Hill skeptics, Military Times

"Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman had already decided to lead opposition in the U.S. House to President Donald Trump's "Space Force" proposal. But a widely leaked Air Force estimate that creating a space force as a new military service would cost $13 billion over the first five years only stiffened Coffman's resolve. Coffman, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee and sits on its Strategic Forces Subcommittee, was sure other lawmakers agree with him. "A really bad idea is a 'Department of Space,'" Coffman said in an interview Tuesday, adding, "I feel confident we can block this. The president will not have the votes."

Senate emerges as obstacle to Trump's 'Space Force', The Hill

"The Senate has emerged as a major impediment to President Trump's hopes for a new "Space Force." While the House GOP has been largely supportive of the idea of creating a new military branch for space, skeptics in the Senate from both parties have raised concerns about its cost - and the potential for adding to bureaucratic overhead at the Pentagon. There's a recognition that players like China are increasingly turning to space, leaving a risk that the U.S. could be left behind. But there are also fears that it will turn into an expensive boondoggle."

Is A Space Force Needed?

Security center director: US needs counterspace capabilities as part of Space Force, The Hill

"A security director is backing President Trump's idea of creating a Space Force, citing a troubling development of counterspace technologies by some of the United States' biggest rivals. Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that while the U.S. still has a "great advantage" over countries like China and Russia, the U.S. military is not doing enough to protect itself. "Where other countries are causing concern for us is not that they're developing space capabilities, but they're developing counterspace capabilities," Harrison told Hill.TV during an interview that aired on Friday, referring to weapons and other destructive systems designed for offensive uses."

The Space Force isn't silly. Reshuffling the Pentagon might be, opinion, Washington Post

"For now, it is unclear whether a big, new military reorganization would add anything useful to what the administration is already doing -- setting up a joint space command, putting more emphasis on developing new space military technologies and pushing harder for the cultivation and promotion of space-oriented officers and specialists. The administration should step up these efforts, not inaugurate a massive bureaucratic overhaul that could for years prove a diversion and distraction."

Pentagon punishes reporters over tough coverage, Politico

"Another example involved the military-news outlet Defense One, which was left out of a media roundtable with the deputy secretary of defense earlier this month to help roll out President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force. The slight came after a Defense One reporter got an early scoop on plans to set up the new branch, breaking the story before the Pentagon was ready for it to go public. Kevin Baron, the executive editor of the site, confirmed that none of his reporters were invited to the briefing and said that [Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana] White had conceded to him in an email that the snub was due to the initial story."

NASA Logo Designer Bashes Trump's Space Force Logo, TMZ

"Richard Danne -- the designer of a NASA logo from 1975 -- went off on Trump's Space Force artwork. Danne ripped into the designs released by the Trump Administration ... telling TMZ, "This logo effort is typical of the present administration: impulsive, ill-advised, superficial, and second-rate." "A random student from the Los Angeles Art Center could put these logos to shame ... They are, in a word: sophomoric!" Richard is peeved some of the Space Force designs were lifts from past NASA logos. "The images are totally derivative from NASA graphics but are -- All flash and no substance, and comical really."

Final Report on Organizational and Management Structure for the National Security Space Components of the Department of Defense

"Establishing a sixth branch of the Armed Forces requires Congressional action. This report outlines immediate steps by the Department of Defense to protect U.S. vital interests in space, including:

- Accelerate space technology and anchor development initiatives to the modernization priorities outlined in the National Defense Strategy,
- Establish a Space Development Agency, a joint organization charged with rapidly developing and fielding next-generation capabilities,
- Establish a Space Operations Force of career space experts who are trained, promoted and retained as space warfighting professionals and who form a space community of engineers, scientists, intelligence experts, operators, strategists and more,
- Establish an affordable and efficient operating structure with accountable civilian oversight to provide service and support functions for the Space Force,
- Establish a new U.S. Space Command to improve and evolve space warfighting, including integrating innovative force designs, concepts of operation, doctrines, tactics, techniques and procedures."

Keith's note: I did another interview on the whole Space Force thing with CGTN this morning. Yes we talked about the official Space Force logo contest.

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Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

"And while these steps have been vital to our national defense, they're really only a beginning. They're only a beginning of meeting the rising security threats our nation faces in space today and in the future. As President Trump has said, in his words, "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space." And so we will. (Applause.)"

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Space Force Update Today

Keith's note: According to the White House Vice President Pence will visit the Department of Defense on Thursday and will be joined by Secretary of Defense Mattis at an honor guard ceremony and a DOD briefing. Following that briefing the Vice President will give formal remarks. Among the topics to be covered with be President Trump's proposed Space Force.

- Watch live starting around 11:15 am EDT
- President Trump Links NASA To The Space Force, earlier post
- Previous posts

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

"And while these steps have been vital to our national defense, they're really only a beginning. They're only a beginning of meeting the rising security threats our nation faces in space today and in the future. As President Trump has said, in his words, "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space." And so we will. (Applause.)"

President Donald J. Trump is Building the United States Space Force for a 21st Century Military

"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. - President Donald J. Trump"

Keith's note: It is rather obvious from prior comments - and especially this tweet from today - that President Trump equates NASA activities and those associated with his whole Space Force thing. Given 60 years of civilian focus, this could represent a significant change for NASA. Let's see how NASA, OSTP, DoD, and the National Space Council try to parse, spin, unpack, and otherwise explain this tweet. Maybe someone will finally explain what Space Force is and what NASA's role is with it. NASA Adminstrator Bridenstine retweeted this tweet and has spent more time talking about Space Force than anyone else. Perhaps he knows what is really going on.

Pentagon not waiting for Congress to create space force: report, The Hill

"The Department of Defense is reportedly planning to create a new Space Operations Force in upcoming months at the direction of President Trump, despite lacking congressional approval for the new military service branch. Defense One reports that the Pentagon has laid out its plan to create the new Space Force in a 14-page report that will be given to lawmakers later this week. Defense One reports that it has reviewed a draft copy of the report dated July 30. The plan as it is currently laid out in the draft includes creating a Space Force with four parts, three of which will be established over the next few months. A combatant command for space, a joint agency that will purchase military satellites and a new warfighting community are among the three parts to be established in the near future."

Earlier posts

Keith's note: I tuned into the Politico Space thing last night. I missed a lot of it since it was supposed to start at 6:15 but after 30 minutes of waiting for it to start I gave up and did something else. I checked back in later and listened for 15 minutes or so. I just happened to tune in just as Jim Bridenstine was asked about the whole Space Force thing. Being an actual warfighter who defended our country, a former Congressman who grappled with legislation, and a guy who thinks about space a lot, he knows his stuff.

Bridenstine answered the Space Force question cogently for 10 minutes or more, jumping back to the topic again and again later. Bridenstine clearly supports the idea of a Space Force and makes his viewpoint clearly without notes or stumbling. Indeed, now and then, he almost sounded like he was auditioning to be Secretary of the Space Force (SecSF).

What's odd about this is that no one at the Department of Defense really wants to talk about Space Force - just Bridenstine. Indeed, the impression one gets is that they are not too thrilled about turning the Pentagon into a Hexagon with a sixth service called Space Force (yes I stole that joke). You can't get the National Space Council to talk about this either. In Washington parlance Bridenstine probably got a little over his skis or was outside his swim lane a bit.

I do not think this signals any sort of military role for NASA. But this space agency does not operate in a vacuum (pun intended) when it comes to other space activities. If Bridenstine is the only one who is willing to talk about space in a larger context that includes things outside of NASA's purview such as Space Force - when no one else will - perhaps we should listen. Maybe he knows what is actually going on.

Now is the time for the Space Force. Trump just needs to get it right, op ed, Washington Post

"The Pentagon helped shoot down the "corps" idea a year ago. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote congressional leaders last October: "I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions." But Trump continued to push his pet space project. One advocate was Vice President Pence, chairman of the National Space Council and a rocket enthusiast who's said to have brought his family to Florida to watch NASA launches. Another was Newt Gingrich, the peripatetic former House speaker who, like Trump, enjoys promoting flashy, controversial ideas. "If Trump can break through the bureaucracy, all this will happen within a decade," even by 2020, Gingrich predicted in a phone interview Tuesday. Gingrich, who informally attends Space Council meetings, says he has talked with Trump about the idea but that the passion for it is the president's. The Air Force had been hoping this proposal would go away."

The Air Force is "as serious as a heart attack" about opposing the Space Corps, MuckRock

"While President Donald Trump's announcement earlier this year regarding the possible establishment of a "Space Force," FOIA shows that not everyone in his own administration is so keen on the idea. In a series of recently released emails from last year, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson made clear her opposition to the establishment of a semi-autonomous "Space Corps," insisting that it be the USAF in charge of militarizing the cosmos."

The New Arms Race Threatening to Explode In Space, Wired

Since he took office, President Trump has dropped numerous hints of the warnings he's evidently getting from military and intelligence leaders. During a spring livestream with astronauts aboard the International Space Station, he alluded, obliquely and without context, to the "tremendous military applications in space." And he has repeatedly floated the idea of creating a new branch of the armed forces specifically for celestial combat--culminating last week with a speech out-and-out ordering the Joint Chiefs of Staff to begin developing plans for a new "Space Force."

Rep. Mo Brooks pushes to put 'Space Force' command in Alabama, AL.com

"Alabama's congressional representatives aren't wasting any time lobbying for the Pentagon to put President Trump's new "Space Force" command on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville."

Mo Brooks pitches Space Force headquarters at Redstone Arsenal, WAFF

"Forgive me for diverging from the primary focus of this hearing, but it occurs to me that each of you has significant persuasive influence on where the new space command will be headquartered, so I am going to touch on that for a moment. In that vein, I hope you will help make Redstone Arsenal a finalist in the space command headquarters debate. Redstone Arsenal has a lot to offer. We have related to space command-- either related a lot or related a little-- the following space command activities: United States Army Aviation and Missile Command; Aviation and Missile Research Developmental and Engineering Center; PEO Missiles and Space; United States Army Space and Missile Command; Army Forces Strategic Command; United State Missile Defense Agency; Defense Intelligence Agency's Missile and Space Intelligence Center; NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, which is the home and birthplace of America's space program; a wealth of intellectual talent; engineers, we have the highest concentration of engineers in the United States of America; physicists; mathematicians; scientists."

Mattis: Legislation needed to create 'space force', The Hill

"Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday said President's Trump's recent direction to establish a "space force" will require work with Congress that has not yet started. "This as you know is going to require legislation and a lot of detailed planning and we've not yet begun," Mattis told reporters outside the Pentagon prior to meeting with his German counterpart. "We've clearly got to start the process," Mattis added, noting that it is among the issues Pentagon leaders will bring up bring up on Friday morning when they meet with National Security Advisor John Bolton."

Air Force says planning for Space Force will be 'thorough' and 'deliberate', LA Times

"A letter to airmen signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said the Air Force looked forward to working with the Defense Department, Congress and other national security partners to "move forward on this planning effort." However, it said the work to create what could be the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces would be a "thorough, deliberate and inclusive process." "As such, we should not expect any immediate moves or changes," the letter stated. "Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy."

"The United States depends on space across the full spectrum of military operations. These space systems, both U.S. government satellites and those of commercial and international partners, are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from jamming and cyberattacks to direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. While the need to improve the resiliency of space systems to different forms of attack is often discussed publicly, the progress other nations are making in developing and deploying counterspace weapons is not. Space Threat Assessment 2018 reviews and aggregates open-source information on the counterspace capabilities and activities of other nations, focusing in particular on China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The report also assesses the space and counterspace activities of select other nations and some non-state actors. This report is not a comprehensive assessment of all known threats to U.S. space systems because many capabilities and activities are not publicly known. Instead, it provides an unclassified assessment that aggregates and highlights publicly available information and makes it accessible for policymakers and the general public." Read the full report here.

SpaceX not to blame for lost mystery satellite, report says, Cnet

"A super secretive US government satellite SpaceX launched in January never made it to orbit after it failed to separate from the upper stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. Three months later, it still appears the satellite manufacturer Northrop Grumman may be to blame for the loss and not SpaceX. A new report from The Wall Street Journal published late Sunday says two teams of investigators have found that a payload adapter, which was modified by Northrop Grumman to accommodate the reportedly sensitive spy satellite, is the culprit behind the loss of the $3.5 billion craft."

Zuma Update: SpaceX Exonerated by USAF, earlier Post

Keith's note: President Trump spoke to military personnel at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and starting talking about a new "Space Force". [Video] [Larger image]

"My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war fighting domain. Just like the land, air, and sea. We may have a Space Force. Develop another one. Space Force. We have the Air Force - we'll have a Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy. You know I was saying it the other day because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said 'maybe we need a new force - we'll call it the Space Force - and I was not really serious - and then I said what a great idea - maybe we'll have to do it. That could happen. That could be the breaking shore. Look at all those people back there. Look at that. Ahhh - that fake news. Ugh. They know - they understand. So think of that: Space Force. Because we're spending a lot - and we have a lot of private money coming in - tremendous. You saw what happened the other day - tremendous success. From the very beginning many of our astronauts have been soldiers and sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen, and marines. And our service members will be vital to ensuring that America continues to lead the way into the stars. It will lead the way in space. We're way, way behind - and we're catching up fast - so fast that nobody even believes it."

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Search For Zuma Unearths Lost NASA Satellite, Aviation Week (Paywall)

"An amateur astronomer on the hunt for the classified Zuma satellite has discovered a long-lost NASA science satellite. "Over the past week. the station has been dedicated to an S-band scan looking for new targets and refreshing the frequency list, triggered by the recent launch of the mysterious Zuma mission," amateur visual and radio astronomer Scott Tilley wrote on his blog skyriddles.wordpress.com." ... Tilley set to work to identify the signal and soon revealed the source: a NASA science satellite known as IMAGE, which disappeared from radar tracking on Dec. 18, 2005.

January 26, 2018 - NASA Confirms IMAGE is indeed alive!, Scott Tilley

"Over the past week the station has been dedicated to an S-band scan looking for new targets and refreshing the frequency list, triggered by the recent launch of the mysterious ZUMA mission. This tends to be a semi-annual activity as it can eat up a lot of observing resources even with much of the data gathering automated the data reviewing is tedious. Upon reviewing the data from January 20, 2018, I noticed a curve consistent with an satellite in High Earth Orbit (HEO) on 2275.905MHz, darn not ZUMA... This is not uncommon during these searches. So I set to work to identify the source. A quick identity scan using 'strf' (sat tools rf) revealed the signal to come from 2000-017A, 26113, called IMAGE."

Statement From Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX on Zuma Launch

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible. "

It's not official, but sources say the secretive Zuma satellite was lost, Ars Technica

"A media query to Northrop Grumman, which manufactured the satellite, was not immediately returned Monday. (Update: Tim Paynter, Vice President of Strategic Communications for Northrop Grumman, said, "This is a classified mission. We cannot comment on classified missions.") Actions taken by SpaceX on Monday indicate its confidence in the rocket's performance during the Zuma launch. Earlier in the day, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the nighttime launch on Twitter. Also, the company continued with preparations for future launches, including rolling the Falcon Heavy rocket back out to a different launch pad in Florida for additional tests."

SpaceX'S top Secret Zuma Mission Set To Launch, Wired

"Veteran aerospace manufacturer Northrop Grumman built the payload, according to a document obtained by WIRED and later confirmed by the company. The company says it built Zuma for the US government, and it's also providing an adapter to mate Zuma with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket."

Highly classified US spy satellite appears to be a total loss after SpaceX launch, CNBC

"Dow Jones reported Monday evening that lawmakers had been briefed about the apparent destruction of the secretive payload -- code-named Zuma -- citing industry and government officials. The payload was suspected to have burned up in the atmosphere after failing to separate perfectly from the upper part of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the report said."

Keith's note: No one is going to go on the record about anything Zuma did - or did not do. So its probably up to those folks who scan the skies for every object launched into - or returning from - space. They know where Zuma is "supposed" to be ...

Could the Pentagon's new R&E head take over military space programs?

"We haven't laid flat the final responsibilities there, but what's really exciting about next year is we've got Mike Griffin on board," who touts extensive experience in the space domain, the deputy told reporters Dec. 21. Griffin, a former NASA administrator during the George W. Bush administration, was formally nominated this month. He has yet to have a confirmation hearing but is expected to have one in January with the goal of having him in place by the Feb. 1 creation of the R&E job. As currently constructed, the R&E office is not planned to have a heavy hand in space issues, aside from its broad mandate to help develop new technologies. But Griffin's space experience seems to have captured the interest of Shanahan as the deputy is working through broader changes to the Pentagon."

Major Policy Issues in Evolving Global Space Operations, Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies

"This paper is designed to inform decision-makers and other interested parties on how the United States may develop national space policy to address the dynamic space environment, based on input from a variety of experts. The issues addressed here, such as space traffic management, small satellites, proximity operations, orbital debris, counterspace threats, and norms of behavior, were chosen because they are likely to demand the attention of decision-makers in the near future. In addition to highlighting the issues, the report presents an overview of options for addressing them." .... The authors recognize that the experts consulted for this paper do not constitute a scientifically selected, statistically significant random sample from the community of space policy professionals. Nonetheless, the group includes a wealth of experience and a diversity of opinions sufficient to convey important insights and lessons on the range of questions they were asked to address."

Keith's note: These studies are fun to read but until/unless NASA in particular - and the U.S. government in general - can write down its top space priorities on a single sheet of paper this is just another one of those reports written by the usual suspects that will get tossed into the policy sausage grinder. Lets see what the National Space Council (NSpC) does.

SpaceX will launch a secret government payload to orbit Wednesday, Mashable

"Very little is known about the Zuma mission, as no government or commercial entity has claimed it. Usually, even the National Reconnaissance Office - the branch of the government responsible for maintaining spy satellites - will say when a payload is theirs while keeping the mission details classified. But for some reason, whatever agency is behind Zuma isn't coming forward. All we know is that the aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman was asked by the government to procure a launch vehicle for the mission and it chose SpaceX, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman said via email. The spokesman also added that Zuma will be headed to low-Earth orbit, which is the region of space about 1,200 miles above the planet."

Solid Rocket Motors: DOD and Industry Are Addressing Challenges to Minimize Supply Concerns, GAO

"The consolidation in the SRM industrial base has also been accompanied by a decrease of suppliers throughout the supply chain. For example, one SRM manufacturer estimated a decrease in suppliers, from approximately 5,000 to 1,000, over the last 20 years. This increases the risk of production delays and disruptions in the event that key components and materials available from a single source become unavailable from that source. GAO found that DOD and industry are taking steps to identify and mitigate these risks, such as by establishing alternative sources and requiring advance notice when suppliers are considering exiting the market."

White House Opposes Space Corps, Space Policy Online

"The Trump Administration informed the House that it does not agree on the need for the Space Corps proposed in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The White House Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) called the proposal premature because DOD is still in the process of studying potential organizational changes. The White House used stronger language to object to two other space provisions in the bill. The House began debate on the bill (H.R. 2810) this afternoon."

Government debates need for military Space Corps, The Hill

"The House moved forward with its plans to create a Space Corps this week when it passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But the proposal faces a long road before becoming reality. The administration, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, has come out strongly against the idea. And there's no equivalent proposal in the Senate, meaning the provision could be stripped out before the bill's final passage."

Congress Pushes To Create U.S. Space Corps, earlier post

House panel votes to split Air Force, create new U.S. Space Corps, Federal News Radio

"As part of its version of the 2018 Defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee voted late Wednesday night to create a sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces: the U.S. Space Corps, which would absorb the Air Force's current space missions."

Alabama Congressman proposes creating new branch of US military: The Space Corps, Al.com

"The proposal would put the branch under the command of the Air Force, though the commander would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, much like the Marine Corps' role in the Navy. Rogers and Cooper said the Department of Defense is not able to address the challenges created by protecting U.S. assets in space, "thus Congress has to step in."

Pentagon 'Space Corps' Plan Leaves Earth Science in the Dust, Wired

"The idea of creating a new military space command even as the White House takes an axe to peaceful Earth-observing systems devoted to science. The Trump administration wants to cancel five NASA earth science missions and slash NOAA's budget for studying the Earth, weather, and oceans--including ground and space-bound sensors. Samson and other policy watchers say cuts to NASA's and NOAA's satellite monitoring programs are driven by the Trump administration's hostility toward (and denial of) climate change. In fact, NOAA's climate and weather programs observing satellites are also vital to keeping the United States safe."

Air Force budget reveals how much SpaceX undercuts launch prices, Ars Technica

"One person who has reviewed the Air Force budget and is sympathetic to the new space industry said the following: That is a tad more expensive than the amount ULA would ever tell taxpayers they are paying for one of its launches, and it illustrates the extent to which those taxpayers are forced to subsidize ULA in order to maintain the fiction that it is a competitive private sector company. Essentially, then, while ULA has talked publicly about lowering the costs of its boosters for the commercial sector and the federal government, the US Department of Defense is suggesting in its budget that ULA's costs are as high as they have ever been."

SpaceX Wins Launch of U.S. Air Force X-37B Space Plane, Reuters

"Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp will fly its first mission for the U.S. Air Force in August when it launches the military's X-37B miniature spaceplane, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said on Tuesday. Four previous X-37B missions were launched by United LaunchAlliance Atlas 5 rockets. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co . "SpaceX will be sending the next Air Force payload up into space in August," Wilson said during webcast testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. She later specified that the payload would be one of the Air Force's two X-37Bspaceplanes."

Boeing, DARPA to Design, Build, Test New Experimental Spaceplane

"Boeing will develop an autonomous, reusable spaceplane capable of carrying and deploying a small expendable upper stage to launch small (3,000 pound/1,361 kg) satellites into low Earth orbit. Boeing and DARPA will jointly invest in the development. Once the spaceplane - called Phantom Express - reaches the edge of space, it would deploy the second stage and return to Earth. It would then land on a runway to be prepared for its next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft."

Aerojet Rocketdyne Selected As Main Propulsion Provider for Boeing and DARPA Experimental Spaceplane

Space Acquisitions: DOD Continues to Face Challenges of Delayed Delivery of Critical Space Capabilities and Fragmented Leadership, GAO

"Many major Department of Defense (DOD) space programs GAO reviewed have experienced cost and schedule increases. For example, costs for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program grew 118 percent and its first satellite was launched more than 3.5 years late. Costs for the Space Based Infrared System grew nearly 300 percent and its scheduled launch was delayed roughly 9 years. Both programs are now in the production phase during which fewer technical problems tend to surface. Satellite ground systems have also been challenged by cost and schedule growth. In fact, ground system delays have been so lengthy that satellites sometimes spend years in orbit before key capabilities can be fully utilized."

X-37B Lands at KSC

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-4 Lands, USAF (with video)

"The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 (OTV-4), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017. "Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers," said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander. "Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today's safe and successful landing of the X-37B." The OTV-4 conducted on-orbit experiments for 718 days during its mission, extending the total number of days spent on-orbit for the OTV program to 2,085 days."

Space is bigger than NASA, Scott Pace, The Hill

"During the presidential campaign, Vice President Mike Pence promised to "relaunch the national space policy council headed by the vice president." The White House does not, and has never needed, a space council to supervise NASA, but it does need a way to combine the separate strands of national security space programs, diplomatic engagement, commercial competition and civil space cooperation with a unity of national purpose and effort. Leadership in space is vital to protecting our own interests and creating a more stable international order in which the United States continues to be the indispensable nation. The Trump administration has the opportunity to "Make America Great Again" in space, not by repeating the past or relying on others to lead, but by working across traditionally separate departments and agencies and creating new partnerships for commerce, security and exploration. A national space council, led by Vice President Pence, can make this a reality."

Exclusive - Rep. Bridenstine: Shoot the Next One Down, Mr. President, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Breitbart

"President Trump should order the Secretary of Defense to position American assets and shoot down Kim Jong Un's next missile launch. Intercepting a North Korean missile would signal to Pyongyang that America has the capability and the willingness to defend our allies and the homeland. In the parlance of military strategy, the missile defense option enhances deterrence-by-denial. North Korea is more likely to be deterred from developing missiles if robust, layered missile defenses deny them any strategic benefit from striking first. The only two alternatives are preemptive offensive action and, of course, more strongly worded UN Security Council resolutions and toothless sanctions."

Keith's note: If a North Korean rocket threatens U.S. assets - or even seems to be doing so - we should defend ourselves. No argument there. Bridenstine has a military background and it is natural that he'd have concerns about issues such as this - and speak out about them. When I have heard him speak about space he does well when it comes to military, communications, and commercial space. But when it comes to NASA science - nothing but crickets. If Bridenstine is the nominee to become NASA administrator he clearly needs a Deputy and a strong AA and Center Director contingent to make up for his clear lack of science management experience.

The fact that this "exclusive" op ed by Bridenstine appears on Breitbart News, the controversial former employer of Trump's avatar Steve Bannon should not be lost on people. This sort of op ed placement does not happen by accident these days. There is clearly an idealogical mind meld going on here - as well as the beginnings of a possible Alternate NASA PR machine - one independent of NASA PAO - in the making.

Trump's $440 billion weapon, Politico

"What Trump is doing, by targeting specific companies or specific federal contracts, is new and unprecedented, experts said. "Never seen anything like this," said Sean O'Keefe, a former secretary of the Navy and comptroller of the Defense Department. ... But political appointees are traditionally loyal to the president and civil servants would risk their career if they were to not fall in line. That means, in practice, contracting officers are likely to acquiesce. "They can choose to say, 'I refuse to do that,'" said O'Keefe, "and then obviously they find themselves counting barrels of fuel in Beirut or something after it's over."

Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look, Roll Call

"Coming soon are a greater number of more capable anti-missile interceptors and radars deployed around the globe - on land, at sea and possibly in space, say these legislators and experts, several of whom have consulted with President-elect Donald Trump's advisers. ...Trump's thoughts on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect's other defense proposals, such as growing the Army and building more warships. As a candidate, Trump said little on the subject."

Keith's note: I'm sure that all of the experts mentioned in this article know how these systems work and are talking to people who talk to people who might talk to Trump's people. But at the present time there is no Trump space policy. So, at best, this is all semi-informed speculation. But, given other rhetoric associated with those lawmakers who will be asking questions at future hearings, it is not idle speculation to expect that more of a focus on overt weaponry in space may be on the horizon.

Video: AIAA Space 2016 Opening Plenary Featuring Charles Bolden, Winston Beauchamp and Steve Jurvetson

"Today the annual AIAA Space 2016 conference began with an opening plenary that included presentations by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Winston A. Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, and the Director, Principal DoD Space Advisor Staff, and Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director, DFJ. This was followed by a panel with the opening speakers.

The addition of Jurvetson, of the venture firm DFJ, added a nice mix to the conversation including reinforcing the fact that venture firms no longer ignore space companies as possible investment opportunities."

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Assessing Data on Worldwide Launch Market to Inform New Acquisition Strategy, GAO

"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?

NDAA is DOA at OMB

Statement of Administration Policy: S. 2943 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, OMB

"If the President were presented with S. 2943, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill. ...

... Multiple Provisions Imposing Restrictions on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program: The Administration strongly objects to sections 1036, 1037, 1038, and 1611. Section 1036 would restrict DOD's authority to use RD-180 engines, eliminate the Secretary's authority to waive restrictions to protect national security interests, and -- with section 1037 -- disqualify a domestic launch service provider from offering a competitive, certified launch service capability. Section 1038 would repeal the statutory requirement to allow all certified providers to compete for launch service procurements. Section 1611 would redirect funds away from the development of modern, cost-effective, domestic launch capabilities that will replace non-allied engines. The combined effect of these provisions would be to eliminate price-based competition of EELV launch service contracts starting in FY 2017, force the Department to allocate missions, inhibit DOD's ability to maintain assured access to space, delay the launch of national security satellites, delay the on-ramp of new domestic launch capabilities and services, and increase the cost of space launch to DOD, the Intelligence Community, and civil agencies. The authorization to use up to 18 RD-180 engines is necessary and prudent to expeditiously and affordably transition to the new domestic launch capabilities currently under development."

Use of Surplus Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Motors for Commercial Space Launches: Section 1607 would direct the Comptroller General to conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits of providing surplus ICBMs to the private sector for commercial space launch purposes. Both Federal law and the Administration's National Space Transportation Policy currently prohibit such transfers for commercial use. The Administration continues to support this long-standing policy, which seeks to avoid undermining investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the launch market."

There are other military space-related issues of concerns listed as well.

Keith's note: I have lived and worked in the Washington, DC metro area for 30 years. One thing I quickly noticed when I moved here was that big companies and organizations use a large canvas - literally - when they are pushing an issue at Congress. It is not uncommon to see Metro stations near the Pentagon or Capitol Hill transformed by a "take over" ad campaign with every possible surface covered with pictures and words. Then there's op eds like the one ULA's Tory Bruno managed to get placed in The Hill begging Congress to let him kill the Delta rocket. Funny thing: I can remember back in the day when Lockheed Martin and Boeing launched big ad campaigns begging Congress to allow them to form the ULA duopoly because it would save taxpayers money by combining EELV marketing. The appearance of the Internet has done little to dampen the use of traditional media such as newspaper ads.

When I opened up my Washington Post this morning page A5 glared back at me with a full page advertisement from Norwegian Air. Flipping the page, A7 glared at me with a full page counter advertisement from ALPA (larger image). The issue has to do with a certification battle over this airline. OK, it got my attention. I do have to wonder who did the advertisement strategy for Norwegian Air. Their ad trumpets "American crew. American jobs. American planes. That's Norwegian." Right: say "American" three times and it somehow equals "Norwegian". OK, if you say so. Now ULA wants Congress to let them kill one of the two rockets it was so desperate for Congress to let them sell - without competition - because there now is competition. Oh yes and they want to kill the one with American engines and keep the one with Russian engines. Rest assured some equally large advertisements with strange tag lines from Tory Bruno will soon start to stare back from the Washington Post stating that the best "American" rocket is one with "Russian" engines.

House panel doubles authorized purchase of Russian rocket engines, The Hill

"The House Armed Services Committee voted Thursday morning to double the allowed purchase of Russian-made rocket engines from nine to 18, despite a desire to develop an American-made alternative. The committee adopted the amendment, by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), by voice vote, after vigorous debate that did not fall along party lines. The Air Force relies on United Launch Alliance -- a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture -- for its sensitive national security space launches, which uses a launch vehicle reliant on the RD-180 engines."

ULA rival SpaceX awarded its 1st Air Force satellite launch contract, Bizjournals.com

"ULA has since tried to lower its launch costs, shedding workers and re-engineering its processes to be able offer launches below $100 million. The 3,700-employee company is offering early retirement and employee buyouts this year and in 2017 in an effort to trim down to about 3,000 employees at its five locations nationwide."

Draft House bill would scramble Air Force's rocket engine plan, SpaceNews

"The proposed restrictions essentially would forbid the Air Force from funding several recently announced co-investment deals with Orbital ATK, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance beyond this year. The Air Force doled out $317 million worth of contracts to help fund Orbital ATK's development of a new solid-fueled launcher, SpaceX's development a new upper-stage engine, and ULA's development of Vulcan, a potentially reusable successor to the RD-180 powered Atlas 5 rocket."

Why does the Air Force want to destroy the struggling U.S. space launch business?, Op Ed, Space News

"Dan Gouré is vice president of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va-based think tank that receives money from Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ... Let's tally up the Air Force's recent moves. First, it insists it must depend on Russian rocket engines for at least another six years. Then it wants to take the high risk approach of launching important national security payloads aboard either the SpaceX system that has never been tried in such a mode or a new launch vehicle using a novel propulsion system. Finally, it wants to devastate what little remains of the U.S. rocket motor industrial base by selling off its stash of surplus Minuteman boosters."

- McCain Calls B.S. On USAF RD-180 Data, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

Space companies feud over what to do with rockets in ICBM stockpile, Washington Post

"Orbital ATK wants to unearth the dormant missiles and repurpose them to launch commercial satellites into orbit. Russia has released its Soviet-era ICBMs into the commercial market, the company argues, so the Pentagon should be allowed to sell its unused ICBMs as well. But to do that, Congress would have to ease a 20-year-old restriction that prohibits the sale of the missile motors for commercial use. And that has touched off a rancorous battle that has extended from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, where Congress is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue Tuesday."

Subcommittee Examines Commercial Satellite Industry, Policy Challenges, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"Those in favor of allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch services argue that many U.S. small satellites have launched on Russian DNEPR vehicles, derived from Russian ICBMs, and that by modifying existing U.S. policy, U.S. launch services could compete with Russia and bring this business back to America. Those in favor also argue that there is a cost to the taxpayer associated with storing excess ICBMs. By allowing the U.S. commercial launch industry to use excess ICBMs, you not only lower the tax burden, but also create potential revenue derived from the sale of these motors. However, those that oppose the policy change raise legitimate concerns that allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch purposes could distort the market in the United States, undermine future investment, and delay innovations that are on the horizon."

- Subcommittee Discusses Small Satellites, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Webcast
- Hearing Charter
- Hearing: Small Satellite Opportunities and Challenges
- Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony
- Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony
- More Solid Rocket Food Fights, earlier post
- Why Not Use Old Missiles To Launch New Satellites?, earlier post






SASC Chairman John McCain Urges Air Force Secretary to Address Russia's Role in National Security Space Program

"Contrary to the estimates you provided to me in private, I am left to conclude that your decision to publicly cite a figure as high as $5 billion was done so to obfuscate efforts to responsibly transition off of the RD-180 before the end of the decade," writes Chairman McCain. "I invite you to clarify the record in the context of proposals actually being considered by the committee While you chose to selectively omit the [Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE)] assessment in your response, we have since been briefed by the CAPE and have been provided with compelling analysis demonstrating cost implications that are starkly different from what you stated in your testimony. In fact, according to CAPE, the cost of meeting assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines could be similar to what we pay today."

Earlier RD-180 posts

Video: U.S. Strategy for Civil and Military Space, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"Sean O'Keefe, former Administrator of NASA, and General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will have an easy chair discussion moderated by Dr. John Hamre, President and CEO of CSIS, on U.S. strategy for civil and military space."


Marc's Note: General Cartwright and Sean O'Keefe provided some perspective and insights to the issues related to U.S. civil and military space strategy including how we're in the "second machine age" and the implications of computer speed and access are having on strategy and policy.

NASA's Secret Past

NASA's Secret Relationships with U.S. Defense and Intelligence Agencies, George Washington University

"Furnishing cover stories for covert operations, monitoring Soviet missile tests, and supplying weather data to the U.S. military have been part of the secret side of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) since its inception in 1958, according to declassified documents posted for the first time today by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University."

Running Out Of Rockets

Before decade is out all US military satellites may be grounded, The Hill

"Today, the launch infrastructure of the United States National Security Space (NSS) -- comprised of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Services and the Intelligence Community (IC) -- is teetering on the edge of a gap in capability which, in less than five years, could mean no capacity to launch the bulk of critical national security missions for as long as ten years. We are close to retiring our existing fleet of launch vehicles without new ones to assure our access to space."

Russia Threatens U.S. Space Program, CNN

"The short-term goal should be to transition to existing American-manufactured launch vehicles, as opposed to phasing out systems such as the Delta IV, which continue to provide critical capability. In the long term, next-generation development programs should not involve major Russian subsystems and components."


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