Tag: NASA

DOD Outlines Space Strategy

Article by David Vergun                                   October 7, 2020                                (defense.gov)

• In June, the US Defense Department released its Space Strategy Summary document (see here) laying out the DoD’s four-pillar strategy for space activities within the next decade and beyond.

• The first line of effort, says Justin T. Johnson, the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, is for the Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.

• The second effort is to integrate space in the joint force of the US Space Command and with allies and partners, to organizes military exercises and prepare for battle in space, should that become necessary.

• The third effort is to shape the strategic environment. This includes educating the public about off-planet threats, promoting responsible activities in space, and putting adversaries on notice that harmful meddling will be met with a deliberate response from the United States military.

• The fourth effort, said Johnson, is to work with allies, partners, industry and other US agencies such as NASA, the FAA and the Commerce Department, to help streamline regulations for the space industry, which the DoD relies upon. The Space Development Agency is the key strategist in this regard. Allies and partners are excited to work with the United States Defense Department. Already, 20 nations and 100 academic and industry partners are collaborating with the DoD.

• “China and Russia are aggressively developing counter-space capabilities specifically designed to hold US and allied space capabilities at risk,” said Johnson. “China and Russia have made space a warfighting domain” by deploying systems that could potentially knock out US satellites – satellites which are vital to the missile warning system; precision, navigation and timing; and weather forecasting.

• In addition to the military aspect of space, Johnson notes that space is vital to US and global commerce. “Our $20 trillion US economy runs on space.”

 

In June, the Defense Department released its Space Strategy document. That document lays out the department’s four-pillar strategy for work that

                 Justin T. Johnson

needs to be done in space within the next decade and beyond.

Justin T. Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, discussed that strategy at a virtual Heritage Foundation event today.
The first line of effort, he said, is for the U.S. Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.

The second effort is to integrate space in the joint force and with allies and partners. That mission is primarily the responsibility of U.S. Space Command, which organizes exercises and prepares for the fight in space, should that become necessary, he said.

The third effort, he said, is to shape the strategic environment. That includes such things as educating the public about threats, promoting responsible activities in space and putting adversaries on notice that harmful meddling will be met with a deliberate response from the department at the time and means of its choosing.

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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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Texas Company Aims to 3D-Print Buildings on the Moon

Article by Mike Wall                                      October 2, 2020                                   (space.com)

• The Austin-based company ICON, known for 3D-printing houses here on Earth, just launched Project Olympus to develop a space-based construction system to help get a foothold on the Moon and Mars. “From the very founding of ICON, we’ve been thinking about off-world construction,” said ICON CEO Jason Ballard. “I am confident that learning to build on other worlds will also provide the necessary breakthroughs to solve housing challenges we face on this world.”

• Project Olympus recently signed a four-year, $14.55M Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) deal with the U.S. Air Force to expand the capabilities of its 3D-printing tech. NASA is contributing 15% of the SBIR funding.

• NASA’s interest in ICON’s 3D-printing construction tech is tied to the Artemis program for manned lunar exploration and permanent base on the Moon by 2030. Making this happen will require extensive use of lunar resources, including water ice (for life support and rocket fuel) and moon dirt (for building materials). A similar devotion to “living off the land” will likely be necessary for sustained human exploration of Mars.

• ICON will partner with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to test a variety of processing and printing technologies using simulated lunar soil. “We want to increase the technology readiness level and test systems to prove it would be feasible to develop a large-scale 3D printer that could build infrastructure on the Moon or Mars,” said Corky Clinton, associate director of Marshall’s Science and Technology Office. “The team will use what we learn from the tests with the lunar simulant to design, develop and demonstrate prototype elements for a full-scale additive construction system.”

• ICON is also teaming with two architecture firms on the program – SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture) and Denmark-based BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “To explain the power of architecture, ‘formgiving’ is the Danish word for design, which literally means to give form to that which has not yet been given form,” said Bjarke Ingels, creative director at the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “This becomes fundamentally clear when we venture beyond Earth and begin to imagine how we are going to build and live on entirely new worlds.”

• “With ICON, we are pioneering new frontiers – both materially, technologically and environmentally,” Ingels said. “The answers to our challenges on Earth very well might be found on the Moon.”

 

                         Jason Ballard

A Texas company aims to take its innovative homebuilding approach into the final frontier.

Austin-based startup ICON, known for 3D-printing houses here on Earth, just launched Project Olympus,

                 Corky Clinton

an ambitious effort to develop a space-based construction system. The program will eventually help humanity get a foothold on the moon and Mars, if all goes according to plan.

“From the very founding of ICON, we’ve been thinking about off-world construction. It’s a surprisingly natural progression if you are asking about the ways additive construction and 3D printing can create a better future for humanity,” ICON co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard said in a company statement.

“I am confident that learning to build on other worlds will also provide the necessary breakthroughs to solve housing challenges we face on this world,” Ballard said. “These are mutually reinforcing endeavors.”

Project Olympus will get a boost from a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract that ICON recently signed with the U.S. Air Force to expand the capabilities of its 3D-printing tech.

The four-year deal is worth $14.55 million, according to the Austin Business Journal. (You can find the outlet’s story

           Bjarke Ingels

here, but it’s behind a paywall.) NASA is contributing 15% of the SBIR sum, ICON representatives told Space.com.

NASA’s interest in ICON’s tech makes sense. The space agency is working, via its Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration, to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by the end of the 2020s. Making this happen will require extensive use of lunar resources, including water ice (for life support and rocket fuel) and moon dirt (for building materials), NASA officials have stressed.

A similar devotion to “living off the land” will likely be necessary for sustained human exploration of Mars, an ambitious goal that Artemis will inform and advance, NASA officials have said.

As part of the newly announced SBIR deal, ICON will partner with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to test a variety of processing and printing technologies using simulated lunar soil. The research will build upon tech that ICON demonstrated in 2018 during NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, company representatives said.

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