Posts Tagged ‘NRO’

We all know there’s really only one sure way to make money in, to, through, or from space: sell space-related goods and services to the government.

Now, if $7.3 billion in proposed cuts to “commercial imagery contracts” hit GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, what will be the effect on the rest of the space industry? How much would the cuts in space services cascade over into satellite and booster builds and shared overhead, to especially include “new” space?

While Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman likely have sufficient capitalization, lines of credit, product diversity, and flex in their workload (to of course include layoffs), what about, in particular, SpaceX as well as some of the other less well-knowns?

Sea Launch was a recent example of operating on (or beyond) a shoestring and when they suffered a launch failure, their house of space cards collapsed. While Sea Launch has since come out of bankruptcy in a several-year-long re-org, are the situations analogous?

Given what appears to be a world-wide glut of launch capacity (India, China, and Russia, as well as SpaceX and all the traditional players), it will be interesting to see how things pan out. Of course, then there are possible cuts of great significance to NASA and mil space as well.



NASA has seen the future and it ain’t EELV?

Prices for EELV are going up for all sorts of reasons, and the Air Force and the NRO are attempting to apply a form of industrial base triage by committing to a minimum number of boosters, eight between them, over each of the next five years.

NASA has conspicuously chosen to not play in this agreement.

Why?  Although NASA says “We don’t budget the way you [DoD] budget,” the between-the-lines reality is perhaps that NASA is hoping SpaceX or another new space provider will swoop in and save the day with greatly diminished launch costs.

As the space industrial base continues to shrink (and cost sharing and economies of scale are diminished given the flyout of the shuttle), unless something really dramatic happens, EELV costs will be likely to continue to rise for a couple of reasons: inertia and regulatory capture.

While command and control industrial base bureaucracies like Lockheed-Martin and Boeing have some advantages, they lack the nimbleness and legacy cost-baggage that benefit new players like SpaceX and others.

space radarA serious head nod is due the folks who have reported that Space Radar, said to be formally cancelled in 2008, is delivering capability.

Without confirming, denying, or advertising capability in any way, the Air Force has even given this Space Radar Fact Sheet which provides some articulation of what’s going on.

How to explain the cancellation/getting product disconnect? 

That’s really hard to say because disinformation campaigns don’t normally include open testimony. 

Well, maybe “disinformation” is a bit strong: ‘not affordable,’ ‘restructuring the program’ and ‘pursing alternative approaches’ can mean many things.  Like taking a white program and making it black.

The end of the Air Force Fact Sheet, posted 23 Feb 2011, says “The next program Key Decision Point (KDP), which would be the decision to go into the design phase, is KDP-B, roughly at the end of FY08 or in FY09.  The first operational satellite is schedule (sic) to be fielded about 2015.”

OK, so here we are nearing the end of FY11.  Nothing is mentioned about the restructure or any subsequent actions.

Is the conclusion the satellite Carlson spoke of is a prototype and it’s working well enough/affordably enough to restart the program?  Or is the government continuing the program (because it never quite died)?  A sort of operational/prototype hair-splitting type distinction?  Or is there something else (like some sort of cut and paste/editing error)?


Nominal is good

NROL-34 has left the earth.

With the launch last night of an Atlas V from VAFB’s Space Launch Complex 3-E, the NRO, their contractors, and a large army of space support has capped an unbelievable (by recent U.S. standards) launch campaign.

How unbelievable?  It’s practically cold-warish in its launch tempo.

    NROL-41 mission launched from Vandenberg on 20 Sep 2010 riding on an Atlas V

    NROL-32 launched from Cape Canaveral on 21 Nov 2010 riding on a Delta 4-Heavy

    NROL-49 launched from Vandenberg on 20 Jan 2011 riding on a Delta 4-Heavy

    NROL-66 from Vandenberg on 6 Feb 2011 riding on a Minotaur 1

    NROL-27 from Cape Canaveral on 11 Mar 2011 riding on a Delta 4-Medium

    NROL-34 from Vandenberg on 14 Apr 2011 riding on an Atlas V

This big campaign was do-able based on the timely intersection of boosters, ranges, facilities, people, and spacecraft all being ready; good fortune with weather and the likes; plus, finally the Director’s push to make a big splash (so to speak) during the NRO’s golden anniversary year.

I never thought they’d be able to pull it off; they did.   Hats off (and congratulations) to all!

NROL_34_patchThe NRO and their contractors have done an unbelievable job over the last several months in holding to schedule and meeting mission requirements. 

Now, NROL-34 is set to go from Vandenberg on 12 April.

Will this op also meet schedule or will bad luck, weather, and anomalies (AKA the dreaded glitches) push it to the right?

What the NRO has done is as impressive a series of launch campaigns as we’ve had since GPS was populated in the 1990s.  Then, GPS had the advantage of one launch vehicle, one launch site, and a highly standardized payload.

Again, hats off to the NRO and their contractors!

nrol_27NROL-27 has departed the fix, having flown from the Cape after a short wind shear delay.

All appears nominal.

God bless the NRO and their contractors.  They are getting it done on time, on target, on budget.



NROL-27 on a Delta IV