Space 

NASA certifies Falcon 9 for science missions

WASHINGTON — NASA has certified the current version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 to launch some categories of science missions, a milestone needed for the upcoming, but delayed, launch of an astronomy spacecraft. NASA disclosed the certification in its full fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, released Feb. 14, in a section about NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP). “In January 2018, SpaceX successfully completed ‘Category 2’ certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 ‘Full Thrust’ with LSP which supports the launch of the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission in March…

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Space 

FCC chairman urges approval for SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants his agency approve SpaceX’s 15-month-old application to serve the U.S. with its proposed megaconstellation. In a statement released just days before SpaceX launches its first two prototype satellites, Pai urged support of the company’s application within the FCC, saying Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX can help reach rural and isolated parts of the country with high-speed Internet. “To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application — along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S.…

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Science 

SpaceX successfully launches the world's most powerful rocket

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — Earth has one less sports car. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off at 3:45 p.m., inaugurating itself as the most powerful launch vehicle in service and sending founder Elon Musk’s Tesla (TSLA) Roadster towards a one-way ride out of Earth orbit. The 230-foot-tall rocket launched at Launch Complex 39A here after a series of delays caused by high winds aloft. As the countdown neared zero and its 27 first-stage engines lit in sequence, clouds of smoke shot out from one side of the pad as the…

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Science 

Jeff Bezos says Blue Origin gives test dummy ‘a great ride’ on New Shepard suborbital spaceship

Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster touches down in Texas after a successful test. (Blue Origin Photo) More Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his space venture, Blue Origin, launched the latest version of its New Shepard suborbital spaceship today for the company’s first test flight in 14 months, with an instrumented test dummy seated aboard. “He had a great ride,” Bezos said tonight in a tweet. The uncrewed, straight-up, straight-down trip was conducted at Blue Origin’s testing ground in West Texas. The video that Bezos included with his tweet showed the…

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Space 

Op-Ed | Matching our launch infrastructure to affordable and resilient space systems

“Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the change in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.” — Giulio Douhet, “The Command of the Air” As the National Security Space community implements resiliency and disaggregation, and as we take advantage of the rapid acceleration of technology, it appears we are moving toward smaller, shorter life, and more numerous satellite programs. It also allows us to turn large, vulnerable critical nodes into less complex, faster to develop, cheaper to deploy, affordable to proliferate,…

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Space 

Commentary | Space launch is a national security priority

A former U.S. under secretary of defense and retired Air Force vice chief discuss the Air Force’s “assured access” policy in the age of SpaceX and Blue Origin. The U.S. depends upon national security space (NSS) systems to deter aggression, and when necessary to fight and win the nation’s wars. These space systems provide timely warning of missile launches, precision navigation and timing, secure and survivable communications, critical intelligence on our adversaries and myriad other services. Over the years, our dependency on these capabilities has grown dramatically as space has…

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Space 

ULA feels no schedule pressure to select Vulcan engine

WASHINGTON — The chief executive of United Launch Alliance said Nov. 9 that he doesn’t feel any urgency to select a main engine for his company’s next-generation Vulcan rocket, despite an impending deadline for an Air Force launch competition. During a question-and-answer session after his speech at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon, Bruno declined to give an update on the competition between the BE-4 engine from Blue Origin and the AR1 from Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the first stage of the Vulcan. ULA has long indicted its preferred choice…

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Space 

SpaceX, OneWeb detail constellation plans to Congress

WASHINGTON —  SpaceX and OneWeb say they are within months of launching the first satellites in their competing megaconstellations of broadband smallsats designed to bring internet to every corner of the globe. Testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Oct. 25, executives from SpaceX and One web provided updates on their constellation deployment, as well as steps they’ve taken to mitigate the risk of space debris from thousands of satellites they aim to deploy into low Earth orbit in the years ahead. First SpaceX satellites in “next few…

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Space 

Air Force adds more than $40 million to SpaceX engine contract

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has provided SpaceX with an additional $40.7 million to support continued development of the company’s Raptor engine. A Defense Department contract announcement Oct. 19 stated that the Air Force was modifying an existing agreement with SpaceX, originally awarded in January 2016, by providing the company with $40.766 million “for the development of the Raptor rocket propulsion system prototype for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.” The statement didn’t include additional information about the nature of the work other than that it would be completed…

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Space 

Blue Origin conducts first test of BE-4 engine

ATLANTA — Blue Origin announced Oct. 19 that it conducted the first successful test of its BE-4 engine, a major milestone for both the company’s launch vehicle plans as well as for United Launch Alliance. Blue Origin, in a tweet, said its first hotfire test of the BE-4 engine was a success. The company included a six-second video, taken from several angles, of the engine firing on a test stand, but provided no other information, including the date, duration or thrust level of the test. A Blue Origin spokesperson said…

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