Recently in Military Space Category

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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