News from the 32nd Space Symposium

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The 32nd Space Symposium takes place April 11-14 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. SpaceNews is covering all four jam-packed days of the premier civil, military, commercial and newspace conference.

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Thursday, April Advertisement14

The head of U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Cecil Haney, delivers an 8:30 a.m. keynote address from the main stage. Other featured speakers today include Buzz Aldrin and Frank Rose, the U.S. State Department’s assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance.

Thursday’s don’t-mission session is a 2:45  p.m. “Launch Mega-Session” featuring top executives from 10 launch companies, including ULA President & CEO Tory Bruno, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake,  Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel, International Launch Services President Kirk Pysher, Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson and the heads of several start-up launch ventures.

Rocket Lab plans Electron test launches this year

Rocket Lab performs a test firing of the second stage of its Electron rocket as it prepares to begin test flights later this year. Credit: Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab performs a test firing of the second stage of its Electron rocket as it prepares to begin test flights later this year. Credit: Rocket Lab

The successful qualification of the second stage of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket keeps the small launch vehicle on track to carry out a series of test flights later this year, the company announced April 13.

Rocket Lab said it had completed qualification testing of the second stage, powered by the company’s Rutherford engine, clearing it for flight. The company will soon begin qualification tests of the vehicle’s first stage, which uses nine Rutherford engines. — Jeff Foust 

Secretive ANGELS satellite part of new space experiments

Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command
Gen. John Hyten

The U.S. Air Force is using a little-discussed satellite that launched in 2014 as part of ongoing experiments that look at how the Defense Department and intelligence community would act during a war in space.

Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, said during a press briefing here that the Defense Department has used the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space, or ANGELS, satellite during recent space experiments. — Mike Gruss

 

Pentagon begins revising DoD space policy 

Doug Loverro (right), the deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy, and Pam Melroy, the deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, during an April 13 panel discussion at the 32nd Space Symposium. Credit: Tom Kimmell
Doug Loverro (right), the deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy during an April 13 panel discussion at the 32nd Space Symposium.  Credit: Tom Kimmell

The Pentagon is in the early stages of revising its space policy for the first time in more than three years, a move that would provide an updated framework for how the Defense Department’s space enterprise operates.

The revisions would flesh out the Defense Department’s guidance on several topics including how to best take advantage of rapidly evolving commercial capabilities and how to protect military and spy satellites from attack, according to government and industry sources. The changes may also incorporate a more thorough policy on offensive space tactics, they said.

Doug Loverro, the deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy, said in an interview here April 14 the revisions are the result of a wide-reaching 2014 study, known as the Space Strategic Portfolio Review. —Mike Gruss

 

 


Wednesday, April 13

Day 3 begins with Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, the deputy chief of staff for operations, speaking at an invitation-only breakfast. For everyone else, the main stage gets going at 9 a.m. with a panel discussion featuring Doug Loverro, the deputy undersecretary of defense for space policy; NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman; Pam Melroy, the deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office; and Damon Wells, director of the NRO’s Office of Policy and Strategy.

Other big Wednesday draws include:

  • NRO Director Betty Sapp and Adm. Cecil Haney, U.S. STRATCOM commander, speaking to attendees of the classified conference track
  • A 2 p.m. future of human spaceflight panel featuring NASA, ESA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic
  • A 3:45 p.m. panel on “congested space” that includes FAA associate administrator George Nield  and representatives from the Space Data Association, Inmarsat, and the University of Arizona’s newly established Space Objects Behaviorial Sciences program, whose director, Moriba Jah, was featured in the March 28 issue of SpaceNews Magazine explaining his plans for creating “the Hogwarts” of space situational awareness.

ULA plans second, bigger round of job cuts in 2017 

Tory Bruno. Credit: ULA
Tory Bruno. Credit: ULA

United Launch Alliance plans to eliminate more than 400 jobs in 2017 in addition to the 375 it plans to cut this year, the head of the Denver-based launch services provider said April 13.

ULA, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that builds and operates the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, currently employs roughly 3,400 people throughout the United States. On April 8, ULA told The Denver Post it planned to eliminate about 375 jobs in 2016 largely through voluntary separation

In an April 13 interview at the 32nd Space Symposium here April 13, Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said a second round of job cuts is planned for 2017.

“We’re going to do one more next year ­— about the same size, a little bit bigger — and then we’re going to be done,” he told SpaceNews. “This year is 375. Next year’s is a little bit larger— 400-and-something, but less than 500 — and then we’re finished. And then I intend to be done-done, hit my competitive price points, and if anything I expect to grow after that.”

 

Lockheed Martin seeks additional uses for proposed NASA habitat module

A full-sized model of Lockheed Martin's proposed cislunar habitat module it is developing under a NextSTEP contract with NASA on display at the company's Denver facilities. Credit: SpaceNews/Jeff Foust
A full-sized model of Lockheed Martin’s proposed cislunar habitat module.

Lockheed Martin is considering additional applications of a cislunar outpost that it is designing for potential use on future NASA human spaceflight missions, including supporting commercial lunar missions.

Bill Pratt, program manager for Lockheed Martin’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA, said he believes that there could be other applications for the proposed habitat once it completed its primary mission for the space agency.

“NASA has a set of ‘Proving Ground’ objectives that they want to accomplish in order to get to Mars. That’s the primary purpose of the outpost,” he said in an April 13 interview during the 32nd Space Symposium here. “Past that, though, my personal view is that the outpost would be great support for countries or other entities that want to go to the lunar surface.” — Jeff Foust

 

DARPA experimental spaceplane program moves into next phase

Boeing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane artist concept
Boeing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane artist concept

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is moving ahead to the next phase of an experimental reusable spaceplane program, but the agency’s expectation that the winning bidder shoulder some of the costs could cause some companies to reconsider participating.

DARPA announced April 7 that it was moving ahead to phase 2 of its Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) program, an effort to develop a prototype of a reusable first stage that, when combined with an expendable upper stage, could launch small and medium-sized satellites for less than $5 million.

DARPA awarded three phase 1 study contracts in 2014 to Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman. Those study efforts are nearing completion, said Jess Sponable, DARPA XS-1 program manager, in a presentation April 7 at the Space Access ’16 conference here. — Jeff Foust

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) discussing his American Space Renaissance Act during a keynote address Tuesday at the 32nd Space Symposium. Credit: Tom Kimmell
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) during a keynote address Tuesday at the 32nd Space Symposium. (Tom Kimmell)

Bridenstine introduces American Space Renaissance Act 

A sweeping space policy bill introduced April 12 seeks to update a wide range of civil, commercial and national security space issues to keep the United States competitive.

Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) formally introduced the American Space Renaissance Act in a speech at the 32nd Space Symposium here, arguing that the bill’s updates to national space policy are critical in a changing environment that threatens the country’s economic and military security.

“Friends, this is our Sputnik moment,” he said in his speech. “America must forever be the preeminent spacefaring nation. That’s why I believe it’s time for the American Space Renaissance Act.”

The bill includes separate sections covering military, civil and commercial policy topics, from changes to responsibilities for space situational awareness to giving the NASA administrator a fixed five-year term. “This is a comprehensive bill, because ensuring that America is the preeminent spacefaring nation requires a holistic approach to entire American space enterprise.” — Jeff Foust and Mike Gruss


Tuesday, April 12

The 32nd Space Symposium begins in earnest Tuesday with keynote addresses throughout the day by: Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (2:30 p.m.); U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work (3 p.m.); NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (11:30 a.m.) ; NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan (3:45 p.m.); Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command (2 p.m.); and U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (10:45 a.m).

Tuesday’s plenary sessions begin at 9 a.m. with a panel discussion featuring the heads of nearly a dozen of the world’s space agencies.

Orbital ATK signs Intelsat as first satellite servicing customer 

An Orbital ATK Mission Extension Vehicle (left) approaches a commercial communications satellite. Credit: Orbital ATK illustration.
An Orbital ATK Mission Extension Vehicle (left) approaches a commercial communications satellite (Orbital ATK illustration)

Orbital ATK has signed Intelsat as its first customer for a revived satellite life extension program as part of the company’s ambitions to create a growing market for satellite servicing for commercial and government customers.

At a press conference during the 32nd Space Symposium here, Orbital ATK said it has also established a new subsidiary to handle its satellite servicing efforts, replacing a joint venture that failed to raise sufficient funding to develop the system.

“About a month ago, Orbital ATK decided to make a substantial investment in commercial satellite in-orbit servicing, because we believe there’s a real market for space logistics,” said Tom Wilson, president of Space Logistics LLC, the new Orbital ATK subsidiary responsible for its satellite servicing efforts.

Orbital ATK is offering the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV), a spacecraft designed to rendezvous with a commercial satellite and dock to the nozzle of its apogee kick motor and surrounding adapter ring. The MEV would then take over propulsion and attitude control for the satellite, offering up to five years of extended life. — Jeff Foust

Aerojet Rocketdyne pitches AR1 as the only direct replacement for RD-180

Aerojet Rocketdyne's Julie Van Kleeck doing a television interview following an April 12 media roundtable at the 32nd Space Symposium. Credit: SpaceNews/Brian Berger
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Julie Van Kleeck  (SpaceNews/Brian Berger)

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Julie Van Kleeck pitched the AR1 rocket engine to a roomful of reporters Tuesday morning as the only direct replacement for the reliable but politically polarizing Russian engine that powers the Atlas 5 rocket.

The U.S. Air Force awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a contract in February worth up to $534 million over five years to certify and start delivering flight-ready AR1 engines in 2019. Aerojet Rocketdyne says it already has kicked in $70 million , with its total investment expected to exceed $250 million over the life of the contract.

Van Kleeck, vice president of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s advanced space and launch business unit, said the Air Force contract — the largest of several propulsion-related awards the service has made in recent months — is a sign of the Air Force’s confidence in the AR1’s ability to provide an expedient replacement for the RD-180 engine the Defense Department is under pressure from Congress to stop using.

United Launch Alliance, however, has anointed Blue Origin’s methane-fueled BE-4 engine as the front runner to replace the RD-180 by serving as the main engine for the Denver company’s next-generation rocket Vulcan.

“The AR1 engine can fly both on an Atlas and Vulcan and its the only engine that can do so,” Van Kleeck said. — Brian Berger

 

NOAA issues timeline for commercial weather data pilot

Steve Volz, NOAA NESDIS assistant administrator. Credit: SpaceNews/Kate Patterson
Steve Volz (SpaceNews/Kate Patterson)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a plan April 10 for conducting first Commercial Weather Data Pilot, a congressionally directed demonstration effort aimed at validating the viability of incorporating commercial data into NOAA’s forecast models.

The first Commercial Weather Data Pilot, or CWDP, will kick off this summer with a solicitation for GPS radio occultation data of the sort NOAA and Eumetsat have been using for years to improve weather forecasts.

Writing in the April 11 issue of SpaceNews Magazine, Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Services, said the CWDP “demos will facilitate the commercial sector’s ability to contribute to improved NOAA products and services while ensuring we uphold our responsibility to provide high-quality forecasts through the use of proven, trusted data. — Brian Berger

Volz is moderating the “Evolving Architectures for Space-based Environmental Intelligence” panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Next-gen GPS ground system passes early test

The Air Force, frustrated by Raytheon's work on a new ground control system for GPS 3 satellites, awarded Lockheed Martin a $96 million to develop a contingency plan until the program is ready. | Credit: Raytheon video grab
Raytheon GPS OCX video grab

Raytheon says it passed the first of three upcoming tests in developing the initial capabilities for the ground control system that will run the Air Force’s next-generation of GPS satellites.

Raytheon is the prime contractor on the $4.1 billion GPS Operational Control Segment, known as OCX. The program, which U.S. military officials have labeled the Defense Department’s most troubled development program, is expected to be completed in July 2021, or about six years later than original projections

In an April 12 press release, Raytheon said OCX passed its first formal qualification test March 4. That test was for OCX’s launch and checkout system, referred to as Block 0, which is used for deployment of GPS 3 satellites.

“The completion of this test milestone validates the maturity of the OCX launch and checkout system,” Bill Sullivan, Raytheon’s OCX program director, said in the release. “As a result of strong collaboration with the Air Force, we were able to demonstrate the system’s performance and increase confidence in the program’s path ahead.” — Mike Gruss

 


Monday, April 11

U.S. agrees to share space situational awareness data with UAE

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Clinton Crosier, U.S. Strategic Command's director of plans and policy (left), and Khalifa Al Romaithi, United Arab Emirates Space Agency chairman, sign a memorandum of understanding at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 11. The MOU to share space situational awareness services and information "will enhance awareness within the space domain and increase the safety of spaceflight operations for the U.S. and UAE," according to U.S. Strategic Command. Credit: U.S. Air Force/ Senior Airman William Branch
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Clinton Crosier and  UAE Space Agency Chairman Khalifa Al Romaithi, sign an SSA MOU on Monday (USAF)

U.S. Strategic Command agreed to share space situational awareness data with the United Arab Emirates under an agreement signed April 11 .

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Clinton E. Crosier, Strategic Command’s director of plans and policy, and Khalifa Al Romaithi, the UAE Space Agency’s chairman, signed the memorandum of agreement during the 32nd Space Symposium.

“We must be able to maintain situational awareness, act where necessary, and as stated in the 2010 Space Policy, preserve the space environment,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, the commander of Strategic Command, said in a press release . “Recognizing an evolving and diverse space environment — and a need to preserve access in space — it is imperative we work with and leverage our key allies and partners like the [UAE] to increase situational awareness in space.” — Brian Berger

 

 


 

ULA and Bigelow announce partnership for launching commercial space stations

Robert Bigelow (left) and ULA CEO Tory Bruno (right) posted with a model of the the B330 at a press conference Monday afternoon at the 32nd Space Symposium. Credit: SpaceNews/Jeff Foust
Robert Bigelow (left) and Tory Bruno (right) pose with a model of the the B330 (SpaceNews/Jeff Foust)

Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance announced a partnership April 11 that could lead to the launch of a Bigelow expandable module to be installed on the International Space Station as soon as 2020.

At a press conference during the 32nd Space Symposium here, the leaders of the two companies argued that the partnership, while still preliminary, could open up new markets in space and also help extend the life of the ISS.

“This is a fundamentally new mission in space,” said ULA president and chief executive Tory Bruno, referring to the development of a commercial habitat. “We haven’t had one of those in 20 or 30 years, arguably. So this is creating new things to do in space, making the space economy larger.”

The focus of the partnership will be to study the launch of Bigelow’s expandable habitats on ULA vehicles. Bigelow is currently developing the B330 module, which has a volume after expansion of 330 cubic meters. That module, Bigelow president Robert Bigelow said, can only be launched by the Atlas 5 552 — Jeff Foust

 

Here’s what’s on tap for Monday

1. Monday’s main event is Cyber 1.6, an all-day cybersecurity conference featuring talks by Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command; Kristina Harrington, the director of the NRO’s Signals Intelligence Directorate; and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. It is only open to U.S. citizens with TopSecret/Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearances. So no media coverage, obviously.

2. United Launch Alliance is holding a press conference at 4:00 p.m. today with Bigelow Aerospace, whose expandable BEAM module was delivered to the International Space Station over the weekend by SpaceX.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno used the 4 p.m. Monday slot at last year’s symposium to unveil Vulcan.

We don’t know for sure what ULA and Bigelow plan to announce today, but one possibility is some kind of agreement (a letter of intent, if not a contract) for ULA to launch future Bigelow modules. Robert Bigelow said last week that the only current vehicle that could launch his B330 modules is the Atlas 5 because of its capacity and payload fairing size.

Apart from any Bigelow-related news, there’s no shortage of questions for ULA following Friday’s announcements that the Centennial, Colorado company plans to cut 375 job and has indefinitely delayed the next Atlas 5 launch as the investigation into an engine anomaly on the previous launch continues.

3. The Space Generation Fusion Forum, which kicked off Sunday, continues Monday. An afternoon speed mentoring session gives young professionals and top university students some face time with a diverse collection of seasoned industry pros, including the NRO’s Kristina Harrington, Arianespace Inc. President Clay Mowry, Boeing Space Exploration vice president John Elbon, Space Angels Network managing director Chad Anderson, an astronaut Robert Curbeam, who recently joined Raytheon as vice president and deputy of space systems. (separate registration required)