A new push for missile defense in space under Trump?
By: Jen Judson, February 19, 2017
WASHINGTON — Ahead of the release of the new administration’s first budget request, U.S. defense officials are pushing to renew the effort to get missile-tracking sensors into space.
President Donald Trump made a campaign statement touting the need to pursue space-based missile defense in an October 2016 memo. In the memo, he said he wanted a ballistic missile defense system with “a heavy emphasis on space-based early warning and missile tracking technologies.”
Each of the last five administrations have had a space-based sensor layer as a critical component of its missile defense architecture on paper. But it’s never gone beyond that; usually dampened by bigger priorities and shrinking budgets, according to Tom Karako, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While pursuit for a space-based missile defense sensor layer is nothing new, the likelihood that Trump will boost defense spending is renewing hope in programs simmering on the back-burner.
So Defense Department leadership have started up the call again for funding of missile defense threat detection capabilities in space.
Both the Army’s new Space and Missile Defense Commander Lt. Gen. James Dickinson and Brig. Gen. Ronald Buckley, U.S. Northern Command’s deputy director of operations, talked about the importance of space for missile defense in speeches at the Association of the US Army’s missile defense conference in Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 7.
Dickinson said space is “fundamental for every single military operation that occurs on the planet today from satellites to GPS,” and said the domain is a crucial part of connecting the battlefield and the backbone of the missile defense kill chain.
“As long as we continue to solely focus and rely on terrestrial-based for our BMD sensors, there will be gaps and seams in our coverage,” Buckley said. “Our adversaries are actively working to exploit any of these gaps and seams. I’m not saying that space isn’t without its flaws, but I believe it’s time we take a hard look at space as an option.”
Buckley highlighted the BMDS Overhead Persistent Infrared Architecture and the Space-based Kill Assessment experiment as promising and good examples of “what some out-of-the-box thinking can do to capitalize on space.”
BOA uses sensors already in orbit to provide the BMDS system with “more and possibly better data,” he said. And the SKA program uses the concept of commercially hosted payloads to get a “fairly significant” number of sensors on orbit on time and in a fraction of the cost of traditional Defense Department space programs.
“This is the kind of thinking we need to continue to pursue,” Buckley said, “as the sticker shock of most space programs is perhaps the biggest impediment to capitalize on this domain within the DoD system.”
A space-based sensor layer’s persistent vantage point would provide the “holy grail of birth-to-death tracking of hostile missiles, which dramatically improves the lethality of both homeland and regional defense,” Karako wrote in a paper on how the new White House might consider investing in missile defense going forward.
Now space-based missile defense funding is at an all-time low, according to Karako, while improvements to the terrestrial-based missile defense system would still fall short of detecting and defeating missile threats currently in development by adversaries like North Korea and Iran. That shortcoming comes from the detection system’s upward stare and such unfixable issues like the curvature of the Earth, which blocks even the most powerful radar’s full field of view.
But even understanding the utility of space for missile defense and having technology that could provide capability, the issue has always been having enough money, Karako told Defense News. In the last several years, Pentagon investment in space is now a sliver of what it was in the early 2000s.
Still, space isn’t totally devoid of missile defense efforts.
There are two Space Tracking and Surveillance System demonstrators in low orbit intended to track a missile’s path from launch to intercept, but Karako said the mission ends for these two demonstrators this year. A follow-on program to STSS was canceled in 2013 that would have included a constellation of nine to 12 satellites with a large telescope and a gimbaled tracking system, he added.
Karako said there are several creative options that could be pursued going forward including using commercial satellites to host payloads like the Missile Defense Agency’s SKA program and relying on international cooperation and joint agency endeavors.
“We know what needs to be done in terms of capability and the question really just is, do we field the rest of the [STSS] constellation in its current form or do we have a smaller more distributed, potentially cheaper, constellations with similar capabilities,” Karako said. “That is what it really comes down to.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne acquires L-3's Coleman, boosting launch portfolio
By: Aaron Mehta, February 22, 2017 (Photo Credit: Courtesy Aerojet Rocketdyne)
WASHINGTON – Aerojet Rocketdyne today announced the acquisition of Coleman Aerospace, a subsidiary of L-3, in a move executives believe will position the rocket motor company to grow into the commercial launch and, perhaps, offensive-weapons market.
The acquisition, which was signed Wednesday and will be finalized by Friday, was for $15 million in cash. Aerojet does not plan any major changes to Coleman in the near term, including job cuts.
Coleman’s main business has been producing targets – essentially, small vehicles which look and act like enemy weapons -- that can be used by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to test its systems against. In November 2013, Coleman won a contract to produce medium-range ballistic missile targets for MDA, a contract that goes through Sept. 2018.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the announcement, Tyler Evans, Aerojet*Rocketdyne’s vice president of Rocket Shop and Defense Advanced Programs, expressed his belief that the acquisition will give Aerojet a major foothold not just in the test vehicle market but the commercial sector as well.
“We believe that there is tremendous synergy in combining the capability and system engineering vehicle integration with the rocket motor capability that we bring, so that we can provide affordable tip-to-tail solutions, if you will, for the Missile Defense Agency, for the services, and potentially for commercial launch providers as we look to grow this capability beyond just suborbital launch to potentially commercial launch,” Evans said.
In a statement, Aerojet predicted Coleman will provide $40 million in revenue in 2017. Evans declined to go into details about where that figure comes from, but indicated it would be a mix of keeping up the existing MDA contract, finding new customers for Coleman’s targets, and synergies from the merger of the two companies.
As an example, Evans pointed out that Coleman currently gets government-furnished rocket motors for their designs, something Aerojet Rocketdyne would now obviously be able to provide directly for their new subsidiary.
“Now we can integrate that rocket motor into a full-up target system and provide that to the end user, which makes us a prime contractor to Missile Defense Agency, where we can provide the full system solution they need,” he said, before expressing a belief that this puts the company more on par with traditional adversary Orbital ATK.
One area that Aerojet wants to grow through Coleman is commercial launch capabilities for small and medium-sized satellites. Coleman’s targets use many of the same technologies as launch vehicles, and in theory Aerojet could combine that with their rocket engines to create a system capable of getting lightweight systems into space.
“We have a lot of companies in the world building smalls satellites and we don’t have a lot of companies in the world who can launch small satellites. So that’s part of the strategy in this acquisition, that’s a market we’re looking to address,” Evans said. Asked when such launches could begin, Evans said “the market would say the sooner the better.
Another potential avenue, though one Evans clarified as more “hypothetical” than anything, is the potential to transform Coleman’s air-launch test vehicles into offensive weapons. Those systems are capable of being launched from a C-17.
“To address a lot of emerging threats in the world, air-launched offensive and defensive applications are a big opportunity area,” he said. “So there are many different potential markets we can address.”
Since Aerojet and Rocketdyne merged in 2013, the combined company has not been shy about attempting to grow through acquisitions. The most notable case was a 2015 bid to purchase the United Launch Alliance for a reported $2 billion, something that was ultimately rebuffed by ULA's parent companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Commentary: The U.S. Air Force's new push to brace for war in space
By: Gen. Dave Goldfein and Gen. Jay Raymond, February 22, 2017
As the military service responsible for leadership of space, the Air Force is focused intensely on making sure that if and when conflict comes, the United States is prepared to protect our interests and, in a larger sense, our way of life. The extent to which space technologies enable our military to operate around the world, and our economy to run efficiently at home, is not always clearly understood. From buying gasoline at the pump, to driving your car and ordering products online, to efficient delivery of goods and medical services, the global economy relies on satellite technologies first brought online by the military.
For the past 25 years the Air Force has led the integration of real-time, global information from space into the way we conduct military operations. When the US military goes to fight, we do so backed by key space technologies. These include over-the-horizon communications and remote tracking needed to recover troops behind enemy lines to the precision munitions that are key to defeating ISIS.
In the next year, you’ll hear us talking a lot about space and how we work closely with the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. We believe it is imperative that Americans understand the nature of what is at stake as we rapidly prepare to defend our satellites and networks from attack and develop capabilities that will deter future adversaries from trying. The first step is recognizing, in the words of Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, “there is no such thing as a war in space, there is just war, it’s with an adversary and if it extends into space we have to figure out how to fight it.” As an Air Force, we need to treat space just like the land, sea and air warfighting domains.
Just as the Air Force has led the space integration effort, we are now leading the effort to preserve our use of space by preparing for the war that extends into space--which we hope never comes.
* The Air Force developed a warfighting construct to prepare for a conflict that extends to space, enhanced our ability to see threats, and is actively working to hone our ability to command and control space assets in a contested environment.
* We are building a more survivable space infrastructure and strengthening partnerships across the Department of Defense and intelligence community to protect, defend and operate critical national security space systems.
* Last year, we partnered with the intelligence community and U.S. Strategic Command, the headquarters that oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal, to establish the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center in Colorado. This space defense operations center is designed to teach us what we don’t know and to help us innovate and test new tools in space.
These actions and others are necessary to outpace adversaries’ space capabilities and counter any intent to deny freedom of action in this vital warfighting area. And as we re-engineer satellites and train a force for this new reality, we have made a fundamental shift in thinking. The Air Force, and the other services, must think about conflict in space the same way we would approach a conflict on earth. It is no longer just the stuff of science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. In space, we must be able to detect threats early, if need be maneuver, and respond so decisively that no foe is tempted to raise a weapon in anger.
In the near term, addressing what is at stake in this new realm will require both immediate change and a long-term commitment. To this end, the Air Force welcomes the discussion to realign policy, strategy and*resources. By openly embracing our commitment to defend American space assets, we send a strong signal to potential foes that waging such a battle is a losing proposition, period. That is a message that we are ready and willing to deliver.
Gen. Dave Goldfein is the U.S. Air Force chief of staff. Gen. Jay Raymond is the commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command.
Space and air ops teams integrating to fight ISIS
By: Mark Pomerleau, February 21, 2017
Integration of space, air and cyber teams, within the guise of the paradigm shift of multi-domain command and control chief of staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfien has pushed, is becoming a reality in the fight against the Islamic State group.
In a “war story,” Gen. Goldfein described how an MQ-9 Reaper was flying an armed reconnaissance mission over Iraq in early January when personnel received reports of satellite communications interference hindering the aircraft in carrying out the mission. Previously, Goldfein explained during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event Feb. 3, personnel might have tried to troubleshoot and work their way through this issue, but the integration of space teams and prioritized SATCOM link monitoring has dramatically reduced troubleshooting and made the force more agile.
The Air Force began issuing prioritized satellite link monitoring in Air Tasking Orders in September 2016 as part of these operations, and while this practice isn’t new, an Air Force spokesperson told C4ISRNET that prioritized monitoring as an overwatch function for the most important missions and “meshing with operations floor [command and control] functions are the recent pivotal developments,” the spokesperson said.
According to a satellite industry source, the prioritized monitoring list is generated by the electromagnetic interference manager resident at Space and Missile Defense Center, United States Army Strategic Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Prioritization of SATCOM links involves determining which links are highly important assets during a given mission from the air tasking order. The tasking order, usually issued every 24 hours, is a list of things in order of priority to monitor for a given period of ongoing operations.
The prioritized monitoring list, the industry source continued, is generated based on the priority of each specific user allocated SATCOM bandwidth in accordance with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 6250.01(Series), with most users assigned to the prioritized monitoring list being priority two or higher. These priority two users are operational users supporting ongoing conflict or other operations worldwide, such as in the Southern Command area of responsibility, the source added.
The ATO is how the combined air operations center communicates priorities and reporting requirements to units deployed where space professionals are operating special monitoring equipment, the Air Force spokesperson said. The operations floor on the CAOC, “is where air, space and cyber professionals quarterback operations in real time,” the spokesperson continued, adding that they monitor the “vital connective tissue provided by SATCOM links,” which is now a synchronized part of everyday combat operations as opposed to a separate isolated space support function.
Goldfein, continuing in his operational vignette, said a report warning that SATCOM is being interfered with went straight to the floor of the CAOC, in which a space team is fully integrated with those running air operations.
Since the Air Force has begun to prioritize SATCOM link monitoring as a combatant commander priority, Goldfein said, this report can be fed directly to space operators on the floor to solve. In this case, the space team was able to identify the problem in minutes, he added, noting that just six months ago, this task could have taken days or weeks to identify, track and resolve.
The space professionals at the monitoring units are now mission planning in conjunction with the ATO and constructing monitoring plans to better safeguard the most important combat functions, the Air Force spokesperson said.*This enables the CAOC operations team to conduct mitigation functions from kinetic response to diplomatic engagement.
The prioritized monitoring list is provided to several organizations across DoD, the government and private industry, the satellite industry source noted.
“Typically, the organizations involved have organic monitoring capabilities and use the PML to drive which SATCOM links they monitor for interference,” the source said, adding that the “PML is also provided to the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) at Vandenberg AFB, as the JSpOC is the central location for administrative management of EMI impacting DoD/[government] SATCOM links.”
The prioritization of SATCOM links has enabled dramatically quicker responses to issues on the most import SATCOM links, an Air Force spokesperson told C4ISRNET. The spokesperson added that as they practiced the processes, they found they were getting much better at responding to issues with any priority link.
“Given the monitoring units are only currently deployed to the CENTCOM area of responsibility, this is an AFCENT innovation that will be the ‘new normal’ as units are fielded in other theaters,” the Air Force spokesperson said.
The Air Force declined to provide further details on the prioritization structure, but conceded that remotely piloted aircraft*—*the term the Air Force uses to describe its larger drones such as MQ-9s*—*are high on the list. SATCOM is what allows these systems to be remotely piloted beyond line of sight around the globe.
In the past, Goldfein has described a not-so-distant future in which the barriers siloing portions of the CAOC are broken. Noting that the way the force has operated is too slow for the future of combined arms fights, Goldfein offered the picture of personnel on the floor of the CAOC with iPads, and each cell*—*such as a space cell or a personnel recovery cell*—*would be an application on the iPad.
“Now what’s happening between those apps is they’re sharing data on a common mission system and we’re using a combination of artificial intelligence and big data management and we’re able to turn that into decision quality information at the speed that we need to operate in the future of combined arms,” he said during a town hall in July.
Space Wars: U.S. Air Force Defends Its Turf
Mar 1, 2017
Lara Seligman | Aviation Week & Space Technology
An often overlooked core function of the U.S. Air Force is its stewardship of space. From the private citizen sending a tweet to the president’s ability to order a nuclear strike, the U.S. relies on satellite technologies fielded by the service.
But as space becomes more contested, the government is taking a hard look at how to better manage military assets in that domain—and the Air Force is pushing to maintain its lead role.
Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) has operated for decades in a relatively benign environment, says Maj. Gen. David Thompson, AFSPC vice commander. Operators are accustomed to keeping an eye out for natural threats, such as space debris, background radiation or solar storms, and taking appropriate action to move spacecraft out of harm’s way.
The Fight for Space
- GAO, Congress are scrutinizing how Pentagon manages its space assets
- USAF wants to maintain its role as Pentagon’s point man in space
- USAF considers equipping spacecraft with offensive, defensive capabilities
But all that is changing. Potential adversaries are beginning to field offensive capabilities in space, from electronic-jamming devices to anti-satellite weapons that could destroy U.S. spacecraft, says Thompson. To counter the emerging threat, the Air Force is looking to fortify its space infrastructure.
“It’s become very clear, based on the activities of those who could be our adversaries in the future, they intend to challenge our ability to operate in space,” says Thompson. “While we don’t want to see that war extend to space, we have to recognize it might and we have to be prepared.”
The push comes as the Pentagon faces pressure to better manage its space assets. Although the Air Force is currently responsible for more than 90% of the Defense Department’s space enterprise, defense space leadership
responsibilities—including acquisition—are fragmented across an astounding 60 government stakeholders. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report last year warning that this fragmentation is contributing to program delays, cancellations, cost increases and inefficient operations. Congress is also taking an interest: Lawmakers wrote in the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill that they are concerned by the disjointed nature of the military’s space acquisition.
This scrutiny could potentially threaten the Air Force’s long-standing role as the Defense Department’s point man for space. The deputy secretary of defense designated the secretary of the Air Force as the Principal Defense Department Space Advisor (PDSA) in 2015, but it’s possible the Air Force could lose that position. The GAO report noted that officials and experts are “skeptical” that the move has been effective in consolidating fragmented leadership responsibilities, and some thought the PSDA authority would be better placed under the auspices of the secretary of Defense.
The Air Force appears to be launching a fierce campaign to prove the skeptics wrong. In recent months Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has repeatedly stressed the service’s history of safeguarding space, which dates back to 1954. Thompson echoed Goldfein’s comments, saying the Air Force needs to take the lead in developing the new command-and-control constructs, tools and capabilities across the military that will ensure the U.S. maintains its edge in space.
The Air Force is responsible for over 90% of the Pentagon’s space assets, including the GPS satellite constellation. Credit: U.S. Air Force
That means “taking a lead role in the coordination and synchronization of all space activities that the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard bring,” says Thompson.
Thompson detailed several initiatives the Air Force is already undertaking to bolster its space infrastructure. One effort is distributing the mission across a wider array of in-orbit systems—increasing redundancy and minimizing the damage caused by one individual attack, he says. This can also be applied to ground control stations: The more the U.S. can distribute its global satellite control network, the less devastating a cyberattack against a specific node will be.
“If in fact you distribute the systems and the functions and the tasks wide enough, it might mean that there is very little benefit in the adversary trying to attack you,” Thompson says. “For example, the GPS constellation has 30 satellites on orbit today, so if an adversary were to attack one or two, or perhaps even five, the overall effect on the GPS* constellation would still be relatively minor.”
The Air Force is also looking at equipping spacecraft with both offensive and defensive capabilities. One idea is making sure vulnerable spacecraft can carry extra fuel onboard that they can use to out-maneuver an incoming threat. The Air Force is exploring ways to incorporate this into the Space Based Infrared System (for early missile warning) and Advanced Extremely High-Frequency satellites (for protected military communications), says Thompson.
There may be opportunities for the Air Force to take advantage of commercial advances in satellite technology, Thompson points out. The commercial and civil markets have a “tremendous” remote-sensing capability that the military could leverage for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, he says. The Pentagon can either buy these commercial capabilities directly, or let commercial operators operate on the government’s behalf.
Most important, the Pentagon needs to have integrated operations across the joint force equipped to detect threats and effectively counter them, Thompson says. To this end, the Air Force recently stood up the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center at Schriever AFB in Colorado Springs to unify space defense efforts between the Defense Department and the intelligence community. It also serves as a hub for operational collaboration and experimentation on new space system tactics, techniques and procedures.
“We are naturally the service that can and should lead the way in figuring out how to synchronize, integrate and put all those capabilities together,” says Thompson. “If you have capabilities in air, space and cyber and integrate them effectively, the whole is absolutely greater than the sum of the parts in terms of the effect you can deliver for the security of the nation and the rest of the joint force.”
Turkey moves to launch space agency
By: Burak Ege Bekdil, March 1, 2017
ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish government has finalized a draft bill for the launching of the country’s first space agency. The bill has been submitted to parliament for debate and vote.
According to the draft bill, the Turkish Space Agency would determine basic policies and strategies in space and aviation technologies. It will also be expected to help develop a competitive local space industry “not dependent on foreign [technology].” The agency is expected to increase Turkey’s space capabilities.
The ruling Justice and Development Party’s parliamentary majority is set to comfortably pass the non-controversial bill.
The bill defines the mission of the Turkish Space Agency, chaired by the prime minister, as: reducing dependence on foreign technology, coordinating work for space platforms, launching facilities and systems, and helping develop, integrate, launch, monitor and operate aerospace systems.
Its executive board chairman will be the prime minister. Other members will be the ministers of science, industry and technology; development; defense; and transport, maritime and communications.
The law would authorize the Turkish Space Agency to form companies at home or abroad, buy shares in existing companies, or acquire companies.
Before finalizing the draft, Turkish government officials studied similar legal framework in the United States (NASA’s), Japan, Germany and France.
Turkey also is working on plans to build a satellite launching station. Aerospace officials say some of the potential locations for the station were Datca on Turkey’s southwestern coast and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway Turkish state recognized only by Turkey.
In its most recent space effort, Turkey in December launched Gokturk-1, a new military satellite that the country said is “20 percent Turkish” and will help the country in its anti-terror efforts.
The Gokturk-1 is a high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite for civilian and military applications. It can scan high-resolution images (up to 0.8 meters) and features an onboard X-band digital imaging system to handle data compression, storage, and downloading.
Having already spent about $1 billion on satellite programs, Ankara wants to nationalize the satellite business. The Turkish government aims to build the first fully indigenous Turkish satellite by 2019. Turkey wants to invest more in software, design and platforms.
Key local players in the ambitious satellite programs are military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm; Tubitak Uzay, the state scientific research space department; Turkish Aerospace Industries; and CTech, a software company.
Turkey wants to be operating a fleet of 10 satellites by 2023.
In 2015, Turkish Aerospace Industries launched a $112 million Space Systems Integration and Test Center where more than one satellite of up to 5 tons could be assembled, integrated and tested.
Lockheed receives fifth AEHF payload
07th March 2017 - 15:30
by The Shephard News Team
Northrop Grumman has delivered the fifth payload for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) programme to Lockheed Martin, the company announced on 6 March.
The payload was delivered in September 2016 and is currently going through space vehicle level integration. It is currently scheduled for launch in 2018.
The AEHF network is designed to protect military communications against a full spectrum of threats, including cyber-attacks, eavesdropping and high-tech jammers.
One AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire five-satellite legacy Milstar constellation with individual user data rates up to ten times greater than seen on the Milstar system. The higher data rates will allow two-way, jam-resistant transmission of tactical military communication such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data.
Cyrus Dhalla, vice president, communications systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, said: 'This milestone for AEHF exemplifies Northrop Grumman's continued support to building satellite communications systems that will provide critical, reliable, protected communications to the nation's warfighters and to our international partners.'
Australia's space surveillance radar will track debris, satellites
Julian Kerr, Sydney - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
08 March 2017
A C-band space surveillance radar system relocated from the Caribbean island of Antigua to Western Australia has reached full operational capability, Australian defence minister Marise Payne announced on 7 March.
The joint initiative between the Australian Defence Force and the US Air Force provides Southern and Eastern Hemisphere coverage of several hundred objects a day and will lead to improved positional accuracies and predictions, the minister said.
Informed sources said that in addition to tracking space debris, the 10 m dish of the relocated radar is ideally situated to track polar-orbiting Chinese reconnaissance satellites.
The system was used in Antigua by the United States for telemetry tracking of space launches from Cape Canaveral, and since 2014 has been gradually relocated to the remote Harold E Holt Naval Communication Station near Exmouth in Western Australia.
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SpaceX Scores Another Win in Push for Military Satellite Launches (excerpt)
(Source: Washington Post; published March 15, 2017)
By Andy Pasztor
The U.S. Air Force picked Elon Musk’s SpaceX to blast a second Global Positioning System satellite into orbit, part of a broader drive to open up various other launch contracts for competitive bidding through late 2019.
Tuesday’s award of the $96.5 million, fixed-price contract to SpaceX indicates that faced with escalating budget pressures and heightened congressional prodding, Pentagon brass are stepping up efforts to give the Southern California company additional opportunities to become a significant provider of military satellite launches.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has battled for years and even took the military to court to be allowed to bid on such contracts using its Falcon 9 booster. The latest developments mark another victory in the company’s campaign to snare business away from its dominant rival, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.
SpaceX became eligible to conduct military launches in May 2015 and won its first Pentagon contract, also for a GPS navigation satellite, in April 2016.
The rival venture, called United Launch Alliance, for more than a decade had enjoyed a monopoly boosting large military satellites into orbit before SpaceX entered the fray. Until then, the venture’s average launch costs hovered around $200 million per mission.
United Launch still remains on top when it comes to lofting the largest, most expensive and highest-security spy satellites and other national-security payloads. It can cost more than $500 million to transport such satellites into space using the heavy-lift variant of the Delta IV rocket. Last month, two senior members of the House Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon to ensure continued use of the Delta IV. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Washington Post website.
WGS sat launch brings improved SATCOM for Australia
20 Mar 2017
On 18th March Boeing’s ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite launched into orbit and will provide the US and six allied nations with increased communications capabilities to prevent, protect against and respond to attacks.
The WGS-9 satellite was funded through an agreement between the US and Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and NZ, and will also serve Australia (which funded the WGS-6 satellite). Each partner country gains access to the capabilities provided by the full WGS system, which include flexible and secure communication transmissions in the X- and Ka-band frequencies.
“This unique international collaboration increases military interoperability and expands affordable high-data-rate communications for U.S. and allied partners around the globe,” Rico Attanasio, executive director, Boeing Department of Defense/Civil Satellite Programs said. “WGS-9 is among the most capable military communication satellites on orbit today.”
WGS-9 launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. Boeing is on contract for 10 WGS satellites, the last of which is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2018.
The eighth, ninth and tenth WGS satellites include upgraded digital channelizers that nearly double the available bandwidth of earlier satellites in the series.