Pentagon Taps Elon Musk’s SpaceX to Track Hypersonic Weapons from Space

Article by Nolan Peterson                                  October 6, 2020                                 (wearethemighty.com)

• The US Department of Defense has awarded Elon Musk’s ‘Space X’ a $149 million contract to build satellites to track hypersonic missiles, as part of the Space Development Agency’s planned “mega-constellation” of weapons-tracking satellites. Both SpaceX and L3 Harris Technologies Inc. will produce four satellites for the Pentagon each. The satellites will be equipped with ‘wide field of view’ ‘overhead persistent infrared’ (OPIR) sensors.

• The commercial-built satellites will form the first layer of a planned surveillance network to track hypersonic missiles. Under the Space Development Agency’s National Defense Space Architecture, the US will put into orbit a constellation of hundreds of satellites, primarily in low Earth orbit, to track maneuverable hypersonic missiles — a weapons technology currently under development by both Russia and China.

• In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat US missile defense systems. Among those new weapons was the ‘Avangard’ hypersonic glide vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.

• In August, China tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle. The flight paths of intercontinental ballistic missiles can be easily predicted after launch. Hypersonic missiles, however, can be steered in flight, making them much harder to track and a more evasive mark for anti-missile defense systems.

• Some experts warn that the Pentagon’s ‘Hypersonic and Ballistic Missile Tracking Space Sensor’ program doesn’t have enough funding and is plagued with challenges when it comes to integrating with other missile defense systems and linking to advanced interceptors and directed energy weapons.

• The US Space Force already possesses missile-tracking satellites in high geosynchronous orbits. The new satellites will operate from much lower orbits and will therefore have a comparatively limited field of view, requiring the creation of a constellation of satellites that can effectively hand off tracking responsibilities as they follow the flight path of a hypersonic weapon from horizon to horizon.

• SpaceX and L3 Harris are expected to deliver their first of eight satellites by fall of 2022. Initial operating capability is expected by 2024. The entire missile-tracking constellation is planned for completion by 2026.

• SpaceX has already launched two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, powered into orbit by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. It marked America’s return to active spaceflight operations after a nine-year hiatus following the last space shuttle flight in 2011. SpaceX was recently selected by the Space Force to carry out national security space launch missions over the next five years. SpaceX’s Starlink program is currently creating a mega-constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit to provide global broadband coverage for high-speed internet access. SpaceX anticipates Starlink will achieve “near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”

 

                         Elon Musk

SpaceX has won a $149 million Department of Defense contract to build satellites to track hypersonic missiles, marking the first government contract for building such equipment for Elon Musk’s groundbreaking commercial spaceflight company.

As part of the Space Development Agency’s planned “mega-constellation” of weapons-tracking satellites, both SpaceX and L3 Harris Technologies Inc. will produce four satellites for the Pentagon to track hypersonic weapons. The L3 Harris contract to build its four satellites is reportedly valued at $193 million.

The eight commercially produced satellites will be equipped with wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Those satellites will form the first layer of a planned surveillance network to track hypersonic missiles.

Under the Space Development Agency’s National Defense Space Architecture, the US will put into orbit a constellation of hundreds of satellites, primarily in low Earth orbit, to track maneuverable hypersonic missiles — a weapons technology currently under development by both Russia and China.

In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat US missile defense systems. Among those new weapons was the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.

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Artemis Accords Are a First Step to a Space NATO & Future Star Fleet

Below is my video blog on the Artemis Accords signed on October 13 between the United State and seven allied nations with national space programs: Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom. While the language is designed to fit into the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty ratified by UN member nations in 1967, these are bilateral accords with the US, and the UN is merely a place where the accords are placed for international recognition. 
The Artemis Accords contain mutual defense provisions if any nations experience harmful interference in their explorations of the Moon, Mars, asteroids and minor planets. This is first step towards a Space NATO, and eventually a future Star Fleet.
The choice of Artemis as the name for the accords is also very significant symbolically given what has been happening in space in terms of space weapons, false flag events, galactic slave trade, etc., by major nations such as China and rogue secret space programs. Artemis was the Goddess of the forest, hunt, Moon, and righteous behavior. The hidden intent of the Artemis Accords is to clean up these rogue space programs, ensure ethical behavior in space, and to rein in Communist China, which plans to become the undisputed hegemon on Earth and in  Space.
Michael Salla, Ph.D.
 

Virginia Rocket Launch Site is About to Grow With the Most Successful Startup Since SpaceX

Article by Christian Davenport                                   October 2, 2020                                (washingtonpost.com)

• Over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, down past Chincoteague toward the southern tip of the Eastern Shore, sits an isolated spit of shoreline near a wildlife refuge. Wallops Island, Virginia is home to one of the most unusual and little known rocket launch sites in the country.

• Wallops Island contained a naval air station during World War II. In the late 1950s, with the dawn of the Space Age, the air station morphed into the Wallops Flight Facility, serving as a test site for the Mercury space program. The facility has now reinvented itself yet again as a modern commercial space industry rocket hub launching national security missions for Rocket Lab, and is soon to launch missions to the International Space Station for Northrop Grumman. The Wallops facility is poised to become the second busiest launch site in the country, behind Cape Canaveral, which itself is on track to launch 39 rockets into orbit this year.

• Over the last 25 years, the state of Virginia has pumped $250M into the ‘Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’. In addition, NASA has made $15.7M in upgrades to the site, including a mission operations control center, which opened in 2018. The state also contributed $15M to repair a launch pad after an Antares rocket exploded in 2014.

• Perhaps the most successful space upstart since Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Rocket Lab first considered Cape Canaveral. But Wallops was the winner because it had a facility nearby where the company could process its payloads, get the satellites ready for launch and then mate them to a rocket quickly. “The whole facility is designed for rapid launch,” said Rocket Lab CEO, Peter Beck. “And that’s a real requirement out there right now from our national security and national defense forces, to have an ability to respond to threats quickly.”

• At 60 feet tall, Rocket Lab’s ‘Electron’ rocket may be about a quarter of the size of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. But the company hopes it will be a workhorse, launching once a month from Wallops, in flights that should be visible up and down the Mid-Atlantic. The Electron rocket has already had 14 successful launches to orbit from its launch site in New Zealand, earning a reputation for quick turnaround in an industry where getting rockets ready to fly was once a months-long endeavor. The Pentagon and NASA have taken notice.

• NASA has hired Rocket Lab to launch a small satellite to the Moon in 2021 to gather data about the thin lunar atmosphere, as a precursor for human missions. Instead of launching large, expensive satellites that stay in orbit for years and are targets for potential adversaries, the Pentagon is interested in putting up swarms of smaller, inexpensive satellites that could be easily replaced. Both NASA and DARPA are looking at Rocket Lab’s Wallops facility as a launch base having the desired short turnaround time between launches.

• While the number of launches at Wallops now is relatively low, the cadence could grow dramatically, especially as Rocket Lab gets going. And Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the US Space Force, has made it clear the department wants to rely heavily on the private sector. “We have developed a significant amount of partnerships in the national security space business,” said General Raymond during a recent event. “We share some of those partners. We share an industrial base.”

• Wallops wants to capitalize on the growth says Dale Nash, CEO and executive director of Virginia Space. “[W]e can get a few more launchpads close together in here.” “We’re urbanizing.” “One launch a month will not be a big deal.” “Once a week, once we get going, won’t be a big deal either. … We have the capability to grow to 50 or 60 launches a year.”

• Richard Branson has also gotten into the small rocket business with ‘Virgin Orbit’ that would launch a small rocket by dropping it from the wing of a 747 airplane. But while the space industry has made strides, there are still more failures than successes, especially in the early attempts to build small rockets. Rocket Lab has been the unlikely success story. Founded by Peter Beck in 2006, it today has a significant backlog of launches.

• Initially, Beck said, the company planned to ditch its rockets in the ocean, as had been the practice for decades. But like SpaceX, Rocket Lab intends to recover its first stages so they can be reused for future flights for greater efficiency. But instead of flying the boosters back to land and then firing the engines to slow it down, as SpaceX does, Rocket Lab is going to have its booster deploy a parachute to slow it down as it falls back through the atmosphere. Then it would have a helicopter retrieve it with a grappling hook.

• In addition to the NASA moon mission, Beck has long been intrigued with Venus, and planned to send a probe there to look for signs of life. The Venus mission, tentatively scheduled for 2023, would be largely self-funded and launch most likely from New Zealand. “If you can prove that there is life on Venus, then it’s fair to assume that life is not unique but likely prolific throughout the universe,” tweeted Beck.

 

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — Over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, down past Chincoteague toward the southern

                           Peter Beck

tip of the Eastern Shore, sits an isolated spit of shoreline, near a wildlife refuge, that is home to one of the most unusual, and little known, rocket launch sites in the country.

Born as a Navy air station during World War II, it has launched more than 16,000 rockets, most of them small sounding vehicles used for scientific research. But the Wallops Flight Facility, which at the dawn of the Space Age played a role as a test site for the Mercury program, is about to reinvent itself at a time when the commercial space industry is booming and spreading beyond the confines of Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

After the Federal Aviation Administration last month granted Rocket Lab, a commercial launch company, a license to fly its small Electron rocket from the facility, Wallops could soon see a significant increase in launches as the company joins Northrop Grumman in launching from this remote site. While Rocket Lab is largely focused on national security missions, Northrop Grumman launches its Antares rocket to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station on cargo resupply missions at a rate of about two a year, including a picture-perfect launch from the Virginia coast Friday at 9:16 p.m. Northrop also launches its Minotaur rocket from Wallops.

            Dale Nash

Rocket Lab wants to launch to orbit as frequently as once a month from Wallops, which would make the facility the

                Wallops Island, Virginia

second busiest launch site in the country, behind Cape Canaveral, which is on track to fly 39 rockets to orbit this year.

Hoping to give birth to another rocket hub on the Eastern Seaboard, the state of Virginia has over the last 25 years pumped some $250 million into what it calls the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, most of that coming in the last decade, said Dale Nash, the agency’s CEO and executive director of Virginia Space. NASA has also made some significant upgrades to the site, including a $15.7 million mission operations control center, which opened in 2018.

The state also contributed to the $15 million it took to repair a launchpad after an Antares rocket exploded in 2014.

The efforts paid off when Rocket Lab, perhaps the most successful space upstart since Elon Musk’s SpaceX, announced last year it would launch its Electron rocket from here. Once NASA signs off on the company’s autonomous flight abort system, it should be cleared to launch, with a mission coming potentially before the end of the year.

Initially, Rocket Lab looked at Cape Canaveral, of course. But there are already a lot of big companies stationed there — Boeing, the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin is renovating a pad there while building a massive manufacturing facility nearby. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“We ran a competitive process,” Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s chief executive, said in an interview. In the end, Wallops was the winner because it had a facility nearby where the company could process its payloads, get the satellites ready for launch and then mate them to a rocket quickly.

“The whole facility is designed for rapid launch,” Beck said. “And that’s a real requirement out there right now from our national security and national defense forces, to have an ability to respond to threats quickly.”

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