Archive for the ‘USAF’ Category

SAIC has delivered an infrared sensor for Air Force use that will be integrated into and hosted on the commercial SES-2 satellite.  The SES-2 satellite is being built by Orbital Sciences and will provide commercial communications services.

The short and medium wave infrared sensor gets a lower-cost ride to space than a dedicated IR satellite and could be on orbit as early as around this time in 2011.

Called CHIRP (the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload), the sensor assembly will provide wide field-of-view persistent infrared capabilities.

When the sensor is on-orbit, it will have a secure, two-way communication channel to the Air Force through a standard commercial telecommunication transponder.

EELVs Provide Margin; Margin Allows For Scheduling Flexibility

I think the new strategy–basically to match a spacecraft to a boosters six to twelve months out based on spacecraft readiness–is enabled by the studly to-orbit capabilities of the Delta IV and Atlas V EELV vehicles.

I’m guessing both families of boosters have enough margin that they can wait until later in the scheduling process to be matched with a spacecraft versus the traditional way of  matching much earlier on based on which booster was the best fit (or the only fit) to get a particular satellite on orbit.

This flexibility allows a spacecraft to go to either a Delta IV or an Atlas V and avoids committing to one versus the other two years in advance.

The idea makes plenty of sense.  The only ones who might lose out will be those secondary and orphan types of payloads looking for a cheap(er) ride to space.

Somebody got some ‘splainin’ to do.

The WSJ reports $100 billion in defense cuts–about 90 percent in the years beyond FY12 for the purpose of getting the budget under better control.

Concurrently, $50 billion of current year non-defense spending is proposed.

Is it me?

Regarding the proposed cuts to the defense industry, a dilemma remains excess global capacity. That’s why Airbus is considering the USAF tanker deal anew.  But excess capacity almost by definitional means consolidation can (or should) be pursued in order to achieve greater efficiencies.

Then, consolidation leads to a loss of competition.  A loss of competition leads to higher costs.  That’s what happened with EELV, where dreamy assumptions melted in the face of global reality (that is, global reality versus global warming).

The traditional take is for governments, U.S. included, to subsidize industry.

Using the automotive industry, consider the relatively recent cash for clunkers and the GM and Chrysler bailouts.

Groan.  Wasn’t the shuttle a reusable booster?  Didn’t EELV promise cost savings?

Here’s the link to the Aviation Week article…

When I read about savings of over 50%, I think about EELV and the cost savings it was asserted to create.  EELV was a massive ‘cost avoidance’ program, that is, by creating and using new families of launch vehicles, the USAF could get away from brutally expensive ‘heritage’ systems like the Titan IV.

Of course, the savings–the cost avoidance–never materialized.  Paper rockets are cheap and things cost more and more as they move further away from Powerpoint.

EELV’s cost problem was rooted in the bogus assumption there would be lots of EELV launches and ergo, plenty of cost sharing and a low per-unit expense. These were, of course, all wrong.  Its advocates didn’t see that foreign launch competitors, with advantageous labor rates, subsidization, and greatly reduced regulatory entanglements, would end up as the  way for commercial users to go.

Give the SpaceX and Microcosms of the world a chance to compete.  Reusable if it makes sense, expendable if it doesn’t.

Yes, the USAF X-37 space mission has launched.  Go Atlas, go Centaur, go X-37.

Is this all supposed to coincide with Earth Day?  After all, the X-37 is a reusable vehicle…of course, in theory, so is the shuttle.

Speaking of the shuttle, lost in the noise is the fact that the space shuttle Atlantis has been rolled out for its last scheduled mission.

Lotsa link action and much of it is focused on the fact no one in the Air Force is talking about the payload itself.  If it had been a NASA mission to track algae blooms in the south China sea, interest would be nil.  As for me, I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of large red algae blooms in the south China sea.

From the mighty Spaceflight Now.

From the always interesting In From the Cold.

From the Daily Mail (checkout the unretouched photo of Kate Moss while you’re there).

For some program background, how about Aviation Week?

Feel free to laugh your guts out or at least to chuckle knowingly at this article in the CSM Air Force to launch X-37 space plane: Precursor to war in orbit?

For example:

“For the first time, the service will launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a brand new, unmanned spacecraft to demonstrate the military’s ability to fly into space, circle the globe for months on end, and return intact, only to fly again.”

Or better:

“Arms control advocates say it is pretty clearly the beginning of a “weaponization of space” – precursor to a precision global strike capability that would allow the US to hover for months at a time over anywhere it chose with little anyone could do about it.”

Or even:

“…one of the inherent values of the X-37 could be as a maneuverable satellite which could be used to look over China’s shoulder one day, yet evade any attempts to shoot it down.”

While you are free to discuss amongst yourselves, here are my thoughts:

  1. The shuttle was able to circle the globe.
  2. The shuttle was reusable.
  3. The Soviets thought the shuttle should be characterized as a space weapon.
  4. If the shuttle didn’t have people on board, it could have orbited (not hovered!) for years on end.
  5. In space, no one can hear you hover–there is no “hovering” in space.  Star Trek “orbits’ (yes, those are irony quotes) don’t work.
  6. It takes a great deal of energy to move an orbiting object–evading (as in “Maverick, look out!”) ain’t happening.

Carpe hover or “seize the space hook.”

Remember the golden rule of just about everything: if it ain’t funded, it ain’t.  While policy is interesting, it is actually revealed in what gets–or doesn’t get–funded.

This analysis is basically appears to largely be putting a number of the budgetary requirements documents (known as r-docs) into a table and providing commentary from the respective r-docs’ word pictures.

The trends: space control, counterspace, and operationally responsive space are down.  Space situational awareness–supported in part by the separately funded space fence–is headed way up.  Also some serious growth in a couple of MDA’s classified PEs and finally, directed energy is (surprisingly) stayin’ alive.