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NASA seeks proposals for commercial space station development

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WASHINGTON — NASA is seeking proposals for a program to support the development of commercial space stations, even as funding for that effort is in jeopardy in Congress.

NASA published a request for proposals July 12 for its Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development, or CLD, program. The effort, announced earlier this year, will provide funding for initial studies of commercial space stations that could ultimately be used by NASA and other customers. Proposals are due to the agency Aug. 26.

NASA expects to award between two and four Space Act Agreements to support those studies, with up to $400 million available from fiscal years 2022 through 2025. NASA anticipates a second phase of the program to start in 2026, where the agency would certify commercial space stations for use by both NASA payloads and astronauts.

The CLD program is part of NASA’s broader LEO commercialization strategy, tied to its plans to transition from the International Space Station to one or more commercial stations. That process is likely to take a decade, given interest by both NASA and Congress to continue operations of the ISS through the 2020s.

“I think that’s going to be the third leg in the stool in low Earth orbit” along with commercial cargo and crew, said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters, of commercial space stations during a session of the American Astronautical Society’s Glenn Memorial Symposium July 13. “All three pieces of that infrastructure are necessary to be in commercial hands so you can see those synergistic relationships among those three and costs coming down.”

Those future commercial stations, he acknowledged, won’t be as large or as capable as the ISS, at least initially. “In terms of the amount of research volume, I do expect it to go down,” he said, given the size of the ISS. Future commercial stations, he said, likely will start smaller but expand as needed to meet demand. “That’s a very attractive model. You don’t have to pay for a lot of infrastructure unless you’re actually using it.”

NASA, though, continues to face an uphill battle to win congressional support and funding for its LEO commercialization strategy. The agency requested $150 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 but received only $15 million and $17 million, respectively.

House appropriators, in a report released July 14 accompanying its version of a commerce, justice and science spending bill for fiscal year 2022, again cut the program. NASA sought $101.1 million for commercial LEO development but the House bill offers less than half that amount, $45 million.

“The Committee is concerned that NASA lacks clear goals and metrics for the transition away from the International Space Station,” appropriators stated in the report. They direct NASA to conduct a study on its ISS transition plans, including future requirements for a continuous human presence in LEO and review of industry capabilities.

“Such report should also discuss expectations for how NASA will sustain global leadership in space science research in the absence of a NASA-owned and operated station,” appropriators stated.

The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up that spending bill July 15 and send it to the full House. Senate appropriators have not yet introduced their own version of a fiscal year 2022 spending bill.


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Source: https://spacenews.com/nasa-seeks-proposals-for-commercial-space-station-development/

Aerospace

Rocket Lab returns to service with “flawless” launch for U.S. military

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Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifts off at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT; 6 p.m. local time) Thursday from Zealand. Credit: Rocket Lab

Resuming launches after a mission failure two months ago, Rocket Lab successfully placed a small U.S. military research and development satellite into orbit Thursday following a fiery liftoff from New Zealand on a flight that was originally supposed to launch from the company’s new pad in Virginia.

The 59-foot-tall (18-meter) Electron rocket ignited its nine kerosene-fueled Rutherford engines and climbed away from Launch Complex 1 on the North Island of New Zealand at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) Thursday.

Liftoff from Rocket Lab’s privately-owned launch base on Mahia Peninsula occurred at 6 p.m. local time, just after sunset.

Heading east from Mahia, the rocket’s first stage burned its nine engines for about two-and-a-half minutes, followed by a six-minute firing of the second stage engine to reach a preliminary parking orbit.

A kick stage deployed from the the Electron rocket’s second stage to begin a coast across the Pacific Ocean, Central America, and the Caribbean Sea before igniting its Curie engine reach a circular orbit about 372 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 37 degrees to the equator.

Rocket Lab, a California-based company founded in New Zealand, confirmed a good deployment of the U.S. military’s small experimental Monolith spacecraft about 52 minutes after liftoff.

“Payload deployed, flawless launch and mission by the team!” tweeted Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO.

The mission was the 21st flight of a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle since 2017, and the eighth to carry a payload for a U.S. military or intelligence agency customer.

It was also the first Rocket Lab mission since May 15, when an Electron rocket failed before reaching orbit with two commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging satellites.

Rocket Lab’s internal investigation, with oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration, concluded the failure was caused by a problem with the igniter system on the Electron launcher’s second stage engine.

“This induced a corruption of signals within the engine computer that caused the Rutherford engine’s thrust vector control (TVC) to deviate outside nominal parameters and resulted in the engine computer commanding zero pump speed, shutting down the engine,” Rocket Lab said in a statement earlier this month.

Live video from beamed down from the rocket May 15 showed the second stage’s kerosene-fueled Rutherford engine igniting and immediately begin to tumble about three minutes into the flight. The engine shut down prematurely after firing for a few seconds, well short of a planned six-minute burn.

The rocket and its two BlackSky payloads fell into the Pacific Ocean downrange from the launch site in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab said the igniter problem “resulted from a previously undetectable failure mode within the ignition system that occurs under a unique set of environmental pressures and conditions.”

The company said engineers found no evidence of the problem during pre-flight testing, which included more than 400 seconds of burn time for the same engine. But Rocket Lab said it was able to replicate the issue after the flight, and teams “implemented redundancies in the ignition system to prevent any future reoccurrence, including modifications to the igniter’s design and manufacture.”

The May 15 mission was the third time an Electron rocket failed to reach orbit on 20 attempts since 2017.

Engineers traced the cause of an Electron second stage failure in July 2020 to a faulty electrical connector, which detached in flight and led to an early engine shutdown, dooming seven small commercial satellites.

Rocket Lab said it implemented improved testing to better screen for bad connectors, and the company successfully launched its next Electron mission less than two months later.

Rocket Lab racked up six straight successful Electron missions before the launch failure May 15. The company’s first orbital launch attempt in 2017 failed to reach orbit due to a ground system failure that caused safety teams to send a flight termination command to the rocket.

The small launch company says it is ready to resume a busy flight cadence through the rest of the year. Rocket Lab is close to beginning launches from two new pads — one in Virginia and another adjacent to its existing launch complex in New Zealand — to accommodate a more rapid flight rate.

Thursday’s mission, designated STP-27RM, was originally supposed to launch from Rocket Lab’s new pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. But delays in NASA’s certification of the Electron rocket’s new autonomous flight safety system have kept Rocket Lab from beginning service from the Virginia launch base.

In June, officials at Wallops said they hope to complete certification of the new autonomous flight safety system by the end of the year, enabling the first Rocket Lab launch from U.S. soil. With the launch of the military’s Monolith mission moved from Virginia to New Zealand, Rocket Lab’s first flight from Launch Complex 2 at Wallops will likely launch NASA’s CAPSTONE CubeSat payload to the moon.

The CAPSTONE mission is scheduled for launch late this year, according to NASA and Rocket Lab.

The Space Test Program, which helps manage development of the military’s experimental satellites, procured the launch of the Monolith satellite with the Rocket Systems Launch Program, part of the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

Other partners on the mission include the Defense Innovation Unit and the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative, a program that books rides to orbit for small military satellites on emerging commercial small satellite launchers.

The Monolith satellite, built by the non-profit Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University, will demonstrate the use of a deployable sensor that is relatively large in mass compared to the mass of the spacecraft itself, according to the Space and Missile Systems Center.

The deployment of the sensor will change the satellite’s dynamic properties, testing the spacecraft’s ability to maintain stable attitude control, military officials said.

When the military announced the Monolith mission in 2019, officials said the satellite’s sensor package is aimed at space weather monitoring.

Data from the Monolith mission will help engineers design future small satellites to host deployable sensors, such as weather monitoring instruments. The Space Force said that will help reduce the cost, complexity, and development timelines of future missions.

“The satellite will also provide a platform to test future space protection capabilities,” the Space Force said.

Rocket Lab did not attempt to recover the Electron rocket’s first stage booster on Thursday’s mission. The company has retrieved two Electron boosters from the Pacific Ocean as engineers move toward reusing the rocket’s first stage, an innovation Rocket Lab says will allow for a faster launch rate and lower costs.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is sized to deliver small satellites to orbit, providing a dedicated ride for spacecraft that would otherwise have to fly as a lower-priority payload on a larger launch vehicle.

The Electron rocket can deliver a payload of up to 440 pounds (200 kilograms) to a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) sun-synchronous orbit, about 1% of the lift capability of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher. Rocket Lab sells dedicated Electron missions for as little as $7 million.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/29/rocket-lab-returns-to-service-with-flawless-launch-for-u-s-military/

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Keysight Technologies Holds Aerospace Defense Symposium in India August 25-26, 2021

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Keysight Technologies enables customers to learn about the latest electronic test at the Aerospace Defense Symposium 2021 India.  Keysight experts will present vital information relating to the next generation of aerospace defense technology, in addition to demonstrations of the company’s solutions for this dynamic industry, which include next-generation spectrum analyzers, signal sources, vector network analyzers, ultra high bandwidth oscilloscopes, among others.

When:             August 25th – 26th 2021

Where:            Virtual: https://connectlp.keysight.com/Aerospace-Defense-Symposium-India-2021

Keysight will present on a wide variety of topics relevant to the aerospace and defence industry as follows:

Day 1:             August 25, 2021 | 10:00 a.m. IST – 1:00 p.m. IST

Topics include:

  • Understanding technological advances in ultra-wideband mmwave signal generation and analysis for radar and satellite
  • Millimeter-wave frequency bands provide wide available bandwidths that enable high-throughput data, range resolution, accuracy and low latency. Keysight will discuss how technological advances help facilitate rapid measurements with ultra-wideband mmwave signal generation and analysis for radar and satellite applications.
  • Deep dive into Multichannel radio frequency/radar analysis with time domain instrumentation
    • With the advancement in time domain instrumentation, traditional radio frequency (RF) measurements no longer “separate” from the digital design engineer. Time domain instrumentation like next generation multi-channel oscilloscopes can help with RF analysis. Keysight will showcase how multichannel RF/radar analysis can be executed with time domain instrumentation tools.
  • Modulation distortion, noise power ratio (NPR), phase noise measurements with next generation network analysis
    • Modern network analysis tools help speed state of the art measurements including NPR, modulation distortion, and phase noise measurements. Keysight will discuss how the company’s network analyzers will help customers achieve desired measurements.
  • Seamless test methodologies for modern deceptive jamming designs
    • Digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) takes RF signals, digitizes them, and then creates new RF energy based on the pulse received. With a fast turnaround time, it can be used to create multiple false targets. Keysight will explore DRFM and its advantages during this session.

Day 2: August 26, 2021 | 10:00 a.m. IST – 1:00 p.m. IST

  • Demystifying complex test scenarios for aerospace defense applications with Keysight’s PathWave Test Automation software
    • Keysight’s PathWave Test Automation software enables customer to save time with connected test workflows. In this session, Keysight experts will present how to address complex test scenarios in aerospace defense applications.
  • Compact mmWave receiver design for military satellite communication with Keysight’s PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS) software
    • First time right system design ensures that a customer’s system has a competitive advantage. Keysight will discuss how PathWave ADS helps seamlessly design mmWave receivers for military satellite communication.
  • Quantum and optical communication in aerospace defense | challenges and solutions
    • As the end of Moore’s law draws near, quantum technology provides the means to achieve breakthroughs in computing. The unique properties of superposition and entanglement enable previously unimagined performance in quantum applications such as computing, communications and sensing. Keysight experts will discuss how quantum technology and optical communication go hand in hand.
  • Sneak-peek into 5G technology advancements in Aerospace Defense & Military
    • The expansion of 5G design for military and tactical applications has created specific requirements for successful implementation. Whether it is radar or satellite, 5G will play a vital role moving forward. Keysight will deliver a sneak peek into how 5G technological advancements will be leveraged in aerospace, defense and the military.

For more information, visit www.keysight.com 

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Source: https://www.eletimes.com/keysight-technologies-holds-aerospace-defense-symposium-in-india-august-25-26-2021

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Live coverage: Rocket Lab set for return-to-flight launch Thursday

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand carrying the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Monolith microsatellite. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

Rocket Lab’s live video webcast begins approximately 20 minutes prior to launch, and will be available on this page.

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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/29/rocket-lab-stp-27rm-mission-status-center/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Rocket Lab set for return-to-flight launch Thursday

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand carrying the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Monolith microsatellite. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

Rocket Lab’s live video webcast begins approximately 20 minutes prior to launch, and will be available on this page.

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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/29/rocket-lab-stp-27rm-mission-status-center/

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