Since we did the first story about the capabilities that Titan Aerospace offers — drones capable of flying for five years at 65,000 feet — we feel compelled to write about their reported purchase by Facebook. That’s right: not SpaceX or Northrop Grumman or Orbital. Facebook. The story is being covered in the financial and… Keep reading →
UPDATED: Adds Secretary James’ Comments On CRH PENTAGON: In a dramatic last-minute budget decision, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today approved the long-delayed purchase of a Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH). The announcement was slipped into today’s Air Force budget briefing by Maj. Gen. James Martin, Air Force budget director. Martin said he was told… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Positing the future of intelligence — even for one year – poses unique challenges. First, there’s so much those of on the outside don’t know. Then there’s the simple truth that our enemies and competitors drive so much of intelligence. Since we can’t know with certainty what will happen, it’s difficult to predict what the intelligence… Keep reading →
The makers and operators of America’s spy satellites have lofted at least 13 assets on their way to orbit with the early morning launch today of NROL-39, atop the always impressive Atlas V rocket. The main payload may be a highly advanced space radar, according to several educated guesses (which is about the best… Keep reading →
The latest victim of the federal government shutdown is a crucial player in the space and intelligence world, the Aerospace Corporation, which has had to cut back the work of 60 percent of its 3,500 employees. “The Aerospace Corporation started implementing a partial work shutdown on Oct. 3, after the Air Force’s Space and Missile… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: After years of grudging refusal to do much more than discuss the possibility of talks on a space code of conduct, China has begun discussions on a multilateral code as part of a larger UN effort, as well as committed to specific goals known in the trade as “transparency and confidence-building measures” (TCBMs). “It is… Keep reading →
Tomorrow is the forty-fourth anniversary of the day a human first walked on another celestial body, our Moon. So it’s only fitting and proper that we do this — offer our readers a spectacular shot of a heavy rocket, the Atlas V, carrying an enormous military communications satellite into orbit. The Navy satellite built by Lockheed… Keep reading →
COLORADO SPRINGS, NATIONAL SPACE SYMPOSIUM: Spend $5 million to help track possible threats like North Korean missile launches by leaving an Alaskan radar site on at full power. Turn off East Coast radar receivers that provide data about satellites and space debris.
Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, has cut Space Fence radar coverage by one-third, making what he called a prudent risk decision to use a radar at Eglin Air Force Base “that can operate in Space Fence mode” to plug any holes that might develop. That means he’s shut down two of six radar receivers. That’s how tough the balancing act is getting for Shelton as he fights his way through to saving $508 million from his command’s budget. (Perhaps Congress wants to consider how prudent this risk is as it decides what to do about sequestration.)
Shelton said he decided against shutting down the Alaskan radar receiver because of the highly uncertain North Korean situation but now he’s got to find that $5 million from somewhere else in his budget. In addition, he’s cut his civilian contractor workforce by 50 percent.
And he sounded as if the decision has been made to cut spending for the upgrade of the Space Fence, the radar and data system that monitors Earth’s orbit for satellites and the debris that has accumulated there over the years.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are competing for this and Shelton said a contract award could be made in the next month. But he also made very clear that they might drop the program. “Is this a priority investment for the future?” he asked. “Some serious decisions need to be made whether it is a capability we need to invest in for the future.” He said he’s “all for it but” he made it pretty clear that others in the Air Force may not agree with his position.
At the same time as cost is making it hard to justify new systems if they are expensive or don’t provide immediately needed capabilities, Shelton said there had recently been a near miss between a “spacecraft that was not maneuverable and objects that got to within 23 meters. That’s close. That’s close.” He also made clear the US cannot accurately monitor many of the smaller pieces of debris, which he estimated at nearly half-a-million. We can monitor a small sliver of that debris, roughly 22,000 pieces.
Finally, the general spoke about Boeing and Ball Aerospace’s Space-Based Surveillance System, which has been very expensive. A study is underway to decide what to do after SBSS, Shelton said. “There are lessons learned from SBSS. We, unfortunately, let requirements creep get the best of us. It’s far more expensive than it needed to be,” he told reporters here. That has been the case for so many space systems over the last 15 years and it is not, Shelton made clear, a pattern that bears repeating.Keep reading →
COLORADO SPRINGS, NATIONAL SPACE SYMPOSIUM: The Boeing Company, better known for building big satellites in clean rooms and charging big prices for them, has spotted what it thinks may be a sweet spot in the satellite market and plans to build prototypes of three small satellites to show the market what it can do.
The “key” reason for building smaller satellites very quickly is to avoid being left behind by Moore’s Law, which says that computer processing power doubles every 18 months, Bruce Chesley, director for advanced space and intelligence systems at Boeing said. “It’s taking advantage of smaller cheaper components and taking advantage of Boeing’s quality control and procedures.” Keep reading →