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Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg SFB rocket and missile launches.

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2024 April 17 04:58 PDT

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What's New?
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APR 17 Vandenberg SFB Launch Schedule updated

Next Vandenberg Launch
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As of April 17

A Falcon 9 was scheduled for the morning of April 17, but this may have changed. The vehicle was slated to leave south base at 11:30 PDT and carry the WorldView Legion 1 and 2 satellites into orbit.

For a list of past Vandenberg launches, go to Vandenberg SFB Launch History. To access launch photos, videos, and audio reports, visit the Vandenberg Rocket and Missile Launch Multimedia library.


News
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Next Generation Weather Satellite Launched from California

Falcon 9 first stage landing

A Falcon 9 rocket first stage lands at Vandenberg SFB, Calif. following the launch of the first Weather System Follow-on - Microwave (WSF-M) satellite. U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olga Houtsma.

(APR 11) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Space Systems Command (SSC) and its mission partners successfully launched the United States Space Force (USSF)-62 Weather System Follow-on - Microwave (WSF-M) satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:25 a.m. PDT, today, from Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County, California. More

Second Falcon 9 Launch in a Week

(APR 7) A Falcon 9 rocket was launched Saturday evening (April 6) from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. at 7:25 p.m. PDT. The vehicle subsequently placed 21Starlink satellites into orbit.

Liftoff occurred around local sunset at Vandenberg SFB, making the event likely visible over a wide area (possibly as far away as far northern California; western New Mexico; and Mazatlan, Mexico).

Brian Webb

Falcon 9 Launched

(APR 2) A Falcon 9 rocket was launched Monday evening (April 1) from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. at 7:30 p.m. PDT. The vehicle subsequently placed 22 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.

Liftoff occurred shortly after sunset at the launch site. As expected, the rocket's exhaust plume was illuminated by the Sun at high altitude, creating an interesting display. The event was probably more impressive for observers farther east where the sky was darker.

At press time, I have not received any launch observations from outlying areas.

Brian Webb

Environmental Testing

Europa Clipper undergoes environmental testing

The Europa Clipper is seen in the 25-Foot Space Simulator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. before the start of thermal vacuum testing. A battery of tests ensures that the NASA spacecraft can withstand the extreme hot, cold, and airless environment of space. Europa Clipper, set to launch in October from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will arrive at Jupiter and conduct flybys of the moon Europa. The mission's main science goal is to determine whether there are places below the surface of Europa that could support life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

UC Berkeley will Manage $300 Million NASA Mission to Map the UV Universe

(MAR 25) An orbiting space telescope approved by NASA last month and scheduled for launch in 2030 will conduct the first all-sky survey of ultraviolet (UV) sources in the cosmos, providing valuable information on how galaxies and stars evolve, both today and in the distant past. More

Frontier Aerospace to Advance its 500-lbf Engine Design

(MAR 19) THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Frontier Aerospace, a leader in next-generation liquid rocket engines used for commercial space, exploration, and missile defense, announced it had received a contract to advance its 500-lbf engine through Critical Design Review (CDR) in mid-2024.

The 500-lbf engine design has been iterated through internal research and development campaigns to optimize performance with hypergolic propellants. Contract funding will support design and analysis, leading to CDR and achieving engine qualification by 2025.

"We are excited to advance our design and assess the performance as we work to showcase the engine technology and demonstrate its range of capabilities," said Jim McKinnon, president of Frontier Aerospace. "This contract validates our approach to engine development and results."

Frontier Aerospace

Monday Rocket Launch

Falcon 9 launch

A Falcon 9 rocket climbs into the night sky in Ventura, Calif. on March 10 following launch from Vandenberg SFB. This image shows what some observers may see during tomorrow evening's launch.

(MAR 17) A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. tomorrow evening (March 18). The vehicle is slated to leave south base between approximately 7:20 and 11:42 p.m. PDT and carry 23 Starlink satellites into orbit.

If the vehicle lifts off early in the launch window, a large portion of the southwestern U.S. and northwest Mexico could be treated to an interesting display as the rocket's exhaust is illuminated by the Sun at high altitude while suspended in a dusk or night sky.

If the Falcon 9 is launched later, the event could still be visible to the unaided eye for hundreds of miles, but the exhaust plume will be much less pronounced.

Observers within several miles of the coast between La Conchita and Zuma Beach may hear a sonic boom from the launch several minutes after liftoff.

For countdown status and video feeds of the launch, go to:

https://www.spacex.com/launches/mission

https://spaceflightnow.com

This information is preliminary and subject to change.

Brian Webb


Space Systems Command Issues Solicitation for On Ramp to OSP-4 Launch Contract

(MAR 15) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The U.S. Space Force's Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, part of Space Systems Command's (SSC) Assured Access to Space (AATS) program executive office, issued a solicitation today to on ramp additional launch providers to the Orbital Services Program (OSP)-4 Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract. Periodic on ramp opportunities ensure all eligible launch providers within one year of their initial orbital launch are included in OSP-4 mission competitions.

OSP-4 is executed as part of the Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP). It allows for the rapid acquisition of launch services to meet mission requirements for payloads 400 pounds or greater, enabling launch within 12-24 months from task order award. Task orders under the contract can be tailored to meet more demanding timelines for Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS) missions or other needs. The contract has a $986 million ceiling with ordering through October 2028. The Space Force will compete each mission ordered under the contract among the IDIQ awardees.

This is the second OSP-4 on ramp opportunity. SSC initially awarded the OSP-4 contract in 2019 followed by the first on ramp in 2021. While there is not an upper limit on the size or performance of launch systems available on the contract, OSP-4 missions are typically structured with an emphasis on small launch capabilities.

There are currently 10 launch providers on the contract: ABL Space Systems, Aevum, Astra, Firefly Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Relativity Space, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and X-Bow.

Space Systems Command

Muon Space Establishes Communications, Confirms Health of Weather Satellite

Building upon NASA heritage, MuSat2 pioneers software-defined sensing to deliver advanced Space Based Environmental Monitoring products to DoD customers.

(MAR 5) MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA - Muon Space, an end-to-end Space Systems Provider revolutionizing the way Earth is monitored from space, proudly announces the successful deployment and operational status of its second ESPA-class satellite, MuSat2. Launched aboard SpaceX's Transporter-10 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on March 4, MuSat2 is equipped with advanced software-defined radio frequency instrumentation to gather new insights for DoD weather programs.

MuSat2 includes Muon Space's advanced space-qualified software-defined radio system, which performs high speed bi-directional communications and produces science-quality radio frequency (RF) signal observations with very high bandwidth.

In addition to its advanced communication functions, MuSat2 uses signals of opportunity from GPS and other satellites to produce high-gain, dual-polarization, bi-static radar measurements for DoD customers, filling critical observational gaps in soil moisture, ocean winds, and space weather conditions.

Innovative missions like MuSat2 are enabled by Muon Space's high performance, modular satellite architecture. Its flexibility empowers customers to customize and deploy mission-specific payloads with speed, reliability, and efficiency.

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) announced a partnership with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC)'s Weather Systems Branch to develop ground, air, and space-based prototypes for global weather sensing. Muon Space was one of five companies selected in October, 2022 to demonstrate new approaches to addressing key Space-based Environmental Monitoring gaps. AFLCMC's Weather Systems Branch then awarded Muon Space an option to their contract in July 2023.

Muon Space

Northrop Grumman Completes First BOLE Solid Rocket Motor Segment for NASA's Space Launch System

BOLE solid rocket motor segment

A Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension motor segment is transported to final assembly ahead of its first demonstration test scheduled for late 2024. (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman)

(FEB 26) PROMONTORY, Utah - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) completed the first Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) motor segment for the next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket booster. BOLE adds nearly five metric tons of payload capacity for SLS Block 2 Moon and Mars missions above the enhancements already in work for the SLS Block 1B configuration slated to fly on Artemis IV. The new solid rocket boosters will be used on Block 2 beginning with Artemis IX when all the recovered and refurbished shuttle-era steel cases have been expended.

Building on the foundation of the largest and most powerful solid rocket boosters ever flown, Northrop Grumman's BOLE booster incorporates cutting-edge carbon fiber technology and a weight-saving composite case. Combined with other upgrades, it generates 11% more total impulse than the current five-segment solid rocket boosters. The first BOLE demonstration test is scheduled for this year, featuring a full-scale static test with all five segments integrated and horizontally fired in a test bay.

Northrop Grumman

Falcon 9 Launched

(FEB 23) A Falcon 9 rocket was launched last night (February 22) from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. The vehicle lifted off from south base at 8:11 p.m. PST and carried 22 Starlink satellites into orbit.

The launch was visible to the naked eye along the Southern California coast and neighboring areas well into the second stage burn. The rocket's tenuous exhaust plume was not seen due to the bright sky from the nearly full Moon.

A sonic boom from the launch was heard at T+10 minutes in Thousand Oaks and Moorpark, Calif.

Brian Webb

Winter Storm

Storm sediment off southern California coast

A strong winter storm approaches the U.S. West Cost in this composite image (click to enlarge) released February 6. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite acquired the true-color view image two days earlier. Terra was launched from Vandenberg SFB in 1999. Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

First WSF-M Satellite Delivered to Launch Site

(FEB 6) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Space Systems Command (SSC) has successfully delivered the U.S. Space Force (USSF)-62 Weather System Follow-on - Microwave (WSF-M) Space Vehicle (SV) from Ball Aerospace, Boulder, Co. to Vandenberg Space Force Base, Ca., where it will be processed at the Space Vehicle processing facility.

The satellite will undergo a series of post-shipment functional testing, followed by the loading of onboard propellant. After accomplishing these vital testing procedures, the WSF-M satellite will enter the encapsulation phase, after which the payload will be horizontally integrated with the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle before its voyage to space projected for late March.

"This delivery represents a major milestone for the WSF-M program and is a critical step towards putting the first WSF-M satellite on-orbit for the warfighter," said Col. Daniel Visosky, senior materiel leader, SSC's Space Sensing Environmental and Tactical Surveillance program office. "It represents a long-term collaboration and unity-of-effort between the Space Force and our combined teams at Ball Aerospace, support contractors and government personnel."

Under the leadership of SSC Space Sensing's Environmental and Tactical Surveillance program office, the WSF-M satellite is the first of two satellites that Ball Aerospace will deliver. This innovative spacecraft represents a new era in the U.S. Space Force's next generation of modernized, space-based environmental monitoring (SBEM) systems that will augment capabilities provided by the legacy Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). WSF-M will enable the production of enhanced weather prediction and analysis capabilities for joint warfighters conducting mission planning and operations globally.

"The WSF-M satellite is a strategic solution tailored to address three high-priority Department of Defense SBEM gaps - specifically, ocean surface vector winds, tropical cyclone intensity, and energetic charged particles in low Earth orbit," said David Betz, WSF-M program manager, SSC Space Sensing. "Beyond these primary capabilities, our instruments also provide vital data on sea ice characterization, soil moisture, and snow depth."

Space Systems Command is the U.S. Space Force's field command responsible for acquiring, developing, and delivering resilient capabilities and groundbreaking technologies to protect our nation's strategic advantage in and from space. SSC manages an $15 billion space acquisition budget for the Department of Defense and works in partnership with joint forces, industry, government agencies, academic and allied organizations to accelerate innovation and outpace emerging threats. Our actions today are making the world a better space for tomorrow.

U.S. Space System Command

Poised for Science: NASA's Europa Clipper Instruments Are All Aboard

(JAN 30) With less than nine months remaining in the countdown to launch, NASA's Europa Clipper mission has passed a major milestone: Its science instruments have been added to the massive spacecraft, which is being assembled at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. More

After Three Years on Mars, NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends

Ingenuity blade damage

A jagged shadow reveals damage to a blade on NASA'a Ingenuity Mars helicopter. The craft was grounded following damage to one or more rotor blades during landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL

(DEC 25) NASA's history-making Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has ended its mission at the Red Planet after surpassing expectations and making dozens more flights than planned. While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers, imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing and it is no longer capable of flight.

Originally designed as a technology demonstration to perform up to five experimental test flights over 30 days, the first aircraft on another world operated from the Martian surface for almost three years, performed 72 flights, and flew more than 14 times farther than planned while logging more than two hours of total flight time.

"The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best - make the impossible, possible. Through missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the way for future flight in our solar system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and beyond."

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

New Instrument to Capture Stardust as Part of NASA Mission

(JAN 11) Scientists and engineers at the CU Boulder will soon take part in an effort to collect a bit of stardust - the tiny bits of matter that flow through the Milky Way Galaxy and were once the initial building blocks of our solar system. More

Muddy Waters

Storm sediment off southern California coast

Sediment carried out to sea by winter storms muddies the waters off the southern California coast in this photo released January 7 (click to enlarge). NASA's Aqua spacecraft collected the image during a recent daylight pass over the region. Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

California Army Guard Brigade
Works 24/7 to Defend Nation

(JAN 5) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. - Seven California Army National Guard members of Detachment 1, 100th Missile Defense Brigade, epitomize the National Guard's motto, "Always ready, always there." More

Falcon 9 Carries German Satellites into Orbit

(DEC 24) A Falcon 9 rocket carrying two German military satellites lifted off this morning (December 24) from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. The vehicle left south base at 5:11 a.m. PST (13:11 UTC), the start of an 83-minute launch window. The Falcon then headed towards the south-southeast and paralleled the coast as it carried the SARah-2 and SARah-3 Earth-imaging spacecraft into orbit.

The launch will complete a system of three satellites that will collect high-resolution images by bouncing radar signals off the Earth's surface. Using radar will allow the system to gather images day or night and to see through clouds.

The launch produced a nice visual display that was probably visible to the unaided eye over a wide area. The vehicle's exhaust plume emerged late in the first stage burn. The plume was apparently illuminated by the Sun at high altitude during the second-stage burn and produced long rays of semi-transparent white light similar in shape to the light rays on the Arizona state flag.

Brian Webb

Firefly's Fly the Lightning Mission Launches from Vandenberg

Alpha rocket launch

Firefly Aerospace's Alpha FLTA004 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., Dec. 22. This mission marks the 40th launch from Vandenberg in the last 12 months. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas

(DEC 22) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Firefly Aerospace's Alpha FLTA004 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 2 at 9:32 a.m. PST at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., Dec. 22, 2023. Space Launch Delta 30 Guardians and Airmen provided vital spaceport capabilities in support of the Firefly Aerospace mission, called Fly the Lightning, which was carrying a payload for Lockheed Martin.

Vandenberg SFB

Interceptor Launched

(DEC 11) An upgraded Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) was launched from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. this morning at 6:38 a.m. PST as part of a missile defense test. The GBI later successfully intercepted an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

The launch occurred during morning twilight for observers in western California, making the interceptor's sunlit exhaust plume and contrail visible as far away as San Francisco.

Brian Webb

Northrop Grumman Successfully Tests a New Solid Rocket Motor Developed in Less Than a Year

(DEC 8) PROMONTORY, Utah - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully conducted a full-scale static test fire of a new solid rocket motor that was developed in less than a year as part of its Solid Motor Annual Rocket Technology Demonstrator (SMART Demo).

SMART rocket motor test

Northrop Grumman's SMART Demo static test successfully demonstrates several solid rocket motor innovations at the company's Promontory, Utah, test area. (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman)

The SMART Demo successfully demonstrated several innovative technologies, alternate manufacturing materials and processes to reduce lead times by 75 percent, including:

  • Several advanced, long-lead tooling products as well as components of the solid rocket motor's nozzle structure, constructed with additive manufacturing techniques
  • A new cost-effective solid rocket motor propellant capable of operating at cold temperatures
  • Alternative suppliers and new materials that could supplement or replace other long-lead materials experiencing challenged supply chains

Northrop Grumman

NASA's 6-Pack of Mini-Satellites Ready for Their Moment in the Sun

(NOV 30) Most NASA missions feature one spacecraft or, occasionally, a few. More

Falcon 9 Launched

Falcon 9 rocket exhaust

Early risers across Southern California were treated to an interesting display on November 20th thanks to a Falcon 9 rocket launch from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. Exhaust left over from the 2:30 a.m. PST launch was illuminated at high altitude by the Sun at dawn, creating a mysterious, glowing cloud. The white spot above the cloud is the planet Venus.

(NOV 20) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched this morning from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. The vehicle lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at 2:30 a.m. PST and carried 22 Starlink satellites into orbit.

As expected, the launch was apparently visible over a wide area. One observer told the webmaster "If you care to know, I live in postal area 95033, Santa Cruz Mountains and observed the launch this AM. It was very clear once it cleared above the Monterey Peninsula."

The remnants of the rocket's exhaust plume persisted and created an interesting luminous cloud at dawn as the exhaust was illuminated at high altitude by the Sun and suspended against a dark sky.

Brian Webb

NASA's Deep Space Optical Comm Demo Sends, Receives First Data

(NOV 16) NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment has beamed a near-infrared laser encoded with test data from nearly 10 million miles (16 million kilometers) away - about 40 times farther than the Moon is from Earth - to the Hale Telescope at Caltech's Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California. More

Vibration Testing

ASBM spacecraft testing

The Northrop Grumman-built ASBM-1 spacecraft undergoes vibration testing at the company's satellite manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia. The Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission is a two-satellite constellation designed to deliver broadband communications to the Northern polar region for the U.S. Space Force and Space Norway. ASBM-1 is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. in 2024. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

Falcon 9 Launched

(NOV 11) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launch from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. on November 11 at 10:29 a.m. PST. Following liftoff from Space Launch Complex 4E, the rocket carried 90 payloads into a Sun-synchronous orbit. At press time, deployment of most of the payloads has been confirmed.

Clear skies and the rocket's bright orange flame made the early portion of the event visible to the unaidied eye for a distance of at least 100 statute miles.

Brian Webb

Minuteman III Test Provides Vital Data Before Termination

(NOV 1) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Space Launch Delta 30 safely terminated an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean at 12:06 a.m. Pacific Time Nov. 1, due to an anomaly during a test launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

An anomaly is any unexpected event during the test. Since anomalies may arise from many factors relating to the operational platform itself, or the test equipment, careful analysis is needed to identify the cause.

A Launch Analysis Group is forming to investigate the cause. The group will include representatives from Air Force Global Strike Command, the 377th Test and Evaluation Group, the 576th Flight Test Squadron, Space Launch Delta 30 Safety Office and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, among other organizations.

The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. The command learns lessons from every test launch. Gathering data from the launch allows AFGSC to identify and correct any issues with the weapon system to ensure the Minuteman III's continued reliability and accuracy.

Air Force Global Strike Command is a major command with headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, in the Shreveport-Bossier City community. The command overseas the nation's three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, the Air Force's entire bomber force, to include B-52, B-1 and B-2 wings, the Long Range Strike Bomber program, Air Force Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems, and operational and maintenance support to organizations within the nuclear enterprise. Approximately 33,700 professionals are assigned to two Numbered Air Forces, nine wings, two geographically-separated squadrons and one detachment in the continental United States and deployed to locations around the globe.

More information can be found at: https://www.afgsc.af.mil/About/Fact-Sheets/Article/454593/air-force-global-strike-command-air-forces-strategic-air/.

The LGM-35A Sentinel will replace the Minuteman III ICBM with an initial capability of 2029. Until full capability is achieved in the mid-2030s, the Air Force is committed to ensuring Minuteman III remains a viable deterrent.

Air Force Global Strike Command

Radiation Vault

Europa Clipper preparation

Engineers and technicians close the radiation vault of NASA's Europa Clipper in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The vault will protect the spacecraft's electronics from punishing radiation and high-energy particles as it explores Jupiter's moon Europa. The mission will investigate if the ice-encased body has conditions suitable for life. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA Rocket to See Sizzling Edge of Star-Forming Supernova

(OCT 27) A new sounding rocket mission is headed to space to understand how explosive stellar deaths lay the groundwork for new star systems. More

NASA's Voyager Team Focuses on Software Patch, Thrusters

(OCT 20) Engineers for NASA's Voyager mission are taking steps to help make sure both spacecraft, launched in 1977, continue to explore interstellar space for years to come. More

X-Bow Selected for Hypersonic Solid Rocket Motor Development

DoD funding will expand production capacity of the solid rocket motor industrial base

(OCT 10) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- X-Bow Systems Inc (X-Bow) announces its selection by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy, for a $64 million contract to provide large solid rocket motors (SRM) to the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army. This contract establishes X-Bow as a new supplier of SRMs and strengthens the Defense Department supply chain in a critical period for the United States. The introduction of X-Bow's new methods for manufacturing SRMs and energetics will lead to a significant increase in SRM production capacity and decrease in cost for production of SRMs.

X-Bow's SRMs will provide boost propulsion for the Navy-designed hypersonic All Up Round (AUR) utilized by the Navy's Conventional Prompt Strike weapon system and the Army's Long Range Hypersonic Weapon System. X-Bow's world-class team includes Leidos Dynetics and Karman Space & Defense.

This collaboration adds a key capability to domestic sources for large diameter SRM production. Jason Hundley, X-Bow CEO and Founder said "This breakthrough collaboration with the Department of Defense further accelerates X-Bow's existing commitment to provide new, affordable hypersonic solutions. Our team understands the critical nature of this effort and has made this collaboration a key priority. X-Bow is in a unique position to apply our advanced manufacturing for energetics and our revolutionary approach to solid rocket motor development to add much needed production capacity quickly and efficiently."

X-Bow Systems

Missile Reentry

Minuteman III reentry above the Marshall Islands

An unarmed Minuteman III missile reenters the Earth's atmosphere above the Marshall Islands following launch from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. on September 6, 2023. Photo by Ryan Sharp, U.S. Army

Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract Modification

(OCT 5) Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Space Systems Division, Redondo Beach, California, has been awarded a $235,000,000 not-to-exceed undefinitized contract modification (P00075) to previously awarded contract FA8810-18-C-0006 for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Polar Space Vehicles 1 and 2. The modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $2,147,891,819. Work will be performed at Redondo Beach, California, and is expected to be completed by July 25, 2026. No funds are being obligated at time of award. Space Systems Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.

Defense Department

To Study Atmosphere, NASA Rockets Will Fly into Oct. Eclipse's Shadow

(SEP 29) A NASA sounding rocket mission will launch three rockets during the 2023 annular eclipse in October to study how the sudden drop in sunlight affects our upper atmosphere. More

Utah Test and Training Range has Vital Role in OSIRIS-REx Recovery Mission

(SEP 21) HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah - Members of the 388th Fighter Wing's Utah Test and Training Range are playing a key role in recovering NASA's first-ever asteroid sample return on Sept. 24. More

Surprise Launch

Launch of Alpha rocket carrying VICTUS NOX spacecraft

Sky watchers across the Southwest were treated to a dusk light show on September 14 thanks to an unannounced rocket launch from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. An Alpha rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2-West a 7:28 p.m. PDT and carried the VICTUS NOX spacecraft into orbit. Following liftoff, the rocket's exhaust was illuminated at high altitude by the Sun and suspended against a dusk or night sky. Jay Budzik recorded the display with his iPhone 14 pro from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Image copyright 2023, Jay Budzik. Used with permission.

Firefly Aerospace Successfully Launches U.S. Space Force VICTUS NOX Responsive Space Mission with 24-Hour Notice

(SEP 14) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif - Firefly Aerospace, an end-to-end space transportation company, today announced the company successfully launched its Alpha rocket and deployed the VICTUS NOX spacecraft following a 24-hour notice to complete final payload operations and mission preparations. More

Minuteman III Test Launch Showcases Readiness of U.S. Nuclear Force's Safe, Effective Deterrent

(SEP 6) BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- A joint team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen and 30th Space Launch Delta Guardians launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with three test re-entry vehicles Sept. 6 at 1:26 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. More

Liftoff

SDA Tranche 0B Launch

A SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket lifts off at 7:25 a.m. from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., Sept. 2, 2023. This mission carried the Space Development Agency's second round of Tranche 0 satellites for its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. It was also Vandenberg's 29th launch over the last year. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Space Development Agency Completes Second Successful Launch of Tranche 0 Satellites

SDA delivers 13 additional satellites on orbit for Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture demonstrations

(SEP 2) WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Space Development Agency (SDA) today announced the second successful launch of space vehicles from the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). More

Unarmed Minuteman III Test Launch to Showcase Readiness of U.S. Nuclear Force's Safe, Effective Deterrent

(AUG 25) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled for Sept. 5, 2023, from 11:47 p.m. to Sept. 6, 5:47 a.m. Pacific Time from North Vandenberg.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear deterrent, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

This test is routine and was scheduled years in advance. Consistent with previous test launches, this ICBM test launch will validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system.

In accordance with standard procedures, the United States has transmitted a pre-launch notification pursuant to the Hague Code of Conduct, and notified the Russian government in advance, per our existing bi-lateral obligations.

Vandenberg SFB

Interference Training

GPS interference training

Space Force Sgt. Jonathan Ojeda conducts Global Positioning System electromagnetic interference training with a GPS electromagnetic attack system at Schriever Space Force Base, Colo. Image credit: U.S. Space Force

Space Force's First Targeting Squadron
Brought to Life

(AUG 14) PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 75th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron was activated as a unit under Space Delta 7 - Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, during a ceremony Aug. 11, 2023, at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado.

During the activation ceremony, U.S. Space Force Col. Brett Swigert, DEL 7 commander, presented Lt. Col. Travis Anderson with the ceremonial guidon, representing the first assignment of authority from the delta commander to the 75th ISRS's first commander.

"Today is a monumental time in the history of our service," said Anderson. "The idea of this unit began four years ago on paper and has probably been in the minds of several U.S. Air Force intelligence officers even longer."

The 75th ISRS has three primary mission focuses: target analysis, target development and target engagement. Their goal is to prepare and present intelligence packages about a target and the system it is a part of. That could include information about a satellite, a ground station, or the signal in between.

"The 75th ISRS conducts advanced analysis on adversary space force and counterspace force threats along with their associated architectures," said Anderson. "Space forces are space capabilities used by a country to facilitate their joint warfighting. Counterspace forces, also called space attack forces, are space capabilities designed to deny the United States the ability to use our satellite systems during conflict."

According to Master Sgt. Desiree Cabrera, 75th ISRS operations superintendent, the new squadron is the first and only targeting unit dedicated to supporting the U.S. Space Force and its missions.

"Over the past year, the senior enlisted leader, Senior Master Sgt. Cristy Duncan, along with the first assigned members of the targeting team, led Space Delta 7's Operating Location-Bravo using an innovative approach to build the foundation and organizational structure of today's 75th ISRS." said Cabrera. "Not only are we standing up the sole targeting squadron in the U.S. Space Force, we are changing the way targeting is done across the joint community when it comes to space and electromagnetic warfare."

U.S. Space Force

A Very Good Perseid Meteor Shower

(AUG 11) Forecasters are predicting the best Perseid meteor shower in years this weekend. On Saturday night, Aug. 12-13, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, causing dozens of meteors per hour to streak out of the constellation Perseus. The nearly New Moon will make the display unusually easy to see from dark-sky sites. Book a campsite and enjoy the show: Observing tips.

Spaceweather.com

Sea Bloom

Phytoplankton bloom as seen from space

Since its launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. 23 years ago, NASA's Terra spacecraft has provided a treasure trove of interesting Earth images. On August 3 the craft's MODIS instrument recorded this view of a phytoplankton bloom (blue area) in the Barents Sea adjacent to Norway and Russia. The milky-blue color that dominates this bloom points to the likely presence of coccolithophores, a type of microscopic plankton that tend to bloom in the Barents Sea from July through September. Image: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

Planetary Defense Test Deflected an Asteroid but Unleashed a Boulder Swarm

UCLA-led study of NASA's DART mission determines that the strategy presents previously unanticipated risks

(AUG 4) In September 2022, NASA deliberately slammed a spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos to knock it slightly off course. More

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Adjusts Course to Get Closer to Earth

(JUL 26) On July 26, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fired its engines for about 63 seconds to slightly thrust itself onto a course closer to Earth.

Preliminary tracking data indicates OSIRIS-REx changed its velocity, which includes speed and direction, by 1.3 miles, or 2 kilometers, per hour. It's a tiny but critical shift; without course adjustments like this one the spacecraft would not get close enough to Earth on Sept. 24 to drop off its sample of asteroid Bennu.

The spacecraft is currently 24 million miles, or 38.6 million kilometers, away, traveling at about 22,000 miles, or about 35,000 kilometers, per hour toward Earth.

Over the next few days, engineers will use data collected before and after today's engine burn, including Doppler radar data, to make sure the maneuver executed as planned and the spacecraft is on the right path.

Today's trajectory correction maneuver is the final adjustment needed to set up OSIRIS-REx to return to Earth on Sept. 24. Two more maneuvers, on Sept. 10 and 17, will target the precise point in Earth's atmosphere where the spacecraft's sample-return capsule must enter to land on target at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City.

NASA

Dry Run

TBD

A military representative checks a mock OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule for unexploded ordnance at the Utah Test and Training Range during a July 18-20 recovery rehearsal. The actual capsule with a sample of the asteroid Bennu is scheduled to land at the range on September 24. NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a sample from Bennu in October 2020 and has been traveling back to Earth with it since May 2021. Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber.

SpaceX Just Punched a Hole in the Ionosphere

(JUL 21) On the evening of July 19th, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Sky watchers from southern California to Arizona witnessed a magnificent exhaust plume. At the San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Flagstaff, photographer Jeremy Perez saw something extra:

"After the rocket passed overhead, a red fluorescent glow expanded southward and crossed over the Milky Way," says Perez. "It was visible for almost 20 minutes."

The red glow is a sign that the rocket punched a hole in the ionosphere--something SpaceX and others have been doing for years. One famous example occured on August 25, 2017, when a Falcon 9 rocket carrying Taiwan's FORMOSAT-5 satellite created a hole four times bigger than the state of California. On June 19, 2022, another Falcon 9 punched a hole over the east coast of the USA, sparking a display of red lights from New York to the Carolinas that many observers mistook for aurora borealis.

"This is a well studied phenomenon when rockets are burning their engines 200 to 300 km above Earth's surface," explains space physicist Jeff Baumgardner of Boston University. "The red glow appears when exhaust gasses from the rocket's 2nd stage cause the ionosphere to recombine quickly."

Rocket engines spray water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into the ionosphere, quenching local ionization by as much as 70%. A complicated series of charge exchange reactions between oxygen ions (O+) and molecules from the rocket exhaust produce photons at a wavelength of 6300 Å--the same color as red auroras.

"I reviewed footage from the July 19th launch," says Baumgardner. "It shows the second stage engine burning at 286 km near the ionosphere's F-region peak for that time of day. So, it is quite possible that an ionospheric 'hole' was made."

Once rare, ionospheric "punch holes" are increasingly common with record numbers of rocket launches led by SpaceX sending Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit. Ham radio operators may notice them when shortwave signals fail to skip over the horizon, shooting through holes instead of bouncing back to Earth. Sudden GPS errors can also result from the anomalies. These effects may be troublesome, but they are shortlived; re-ionization occurs as soon as the sun comes up again.

spaceweather.com

Anduril Awarded $8M for Space Mesh Network

(JUL 12) Anduril Industries, Inc., Costa Mesa, California, has been awarded an $8,086,934 contract modification to a previously awarded SBIR III contract for fielding of a latticed mesh network to additional space surveillance network sites. This is a modification that captures Space Systems Command's objectives for Phase III SBIR to continue research and development of prototyping of reliable, secure, redundant, and resilient mesh networking capabilities for Space Domain Awareness Space Surveillance Network Sensors. The modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $10,586,934. This effort supports adding sensor sites and reflect hardening of the current sensor sites. Work will be performed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Costa Mesa, California, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2024. Fiscal 2023 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $5,236,000 are being obligated at the time of award. The Space Systems Center Directorate of Contracting, Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

NASA's Starling Prepares to Launch Small Spacecraft Swarm to Orbit

Starling satellites

Watson Attai of Axient-MEIS, Starling integration and testing lead, right; Jeff Blair, Starling lead mechanical engineer, center; and Nick Gentz, Rocket Lab payload integration engineer, left, load a Starling spacecraft into a Rocket Lab CubeSat dispenser as Damon Flansburg, Starling chief safety officer, observes at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. Credits: NASA/ Dominic Hart

(JUL 5) A quartet of six-unit (6U) CubeSats will show off their moves in a sort of orbital line dance when NASA's Starling mission tests critical swarm technologies in space. More

Falcon 9 Launched

(JUL 7) A Falcon 9 rocket was launched today from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. Following liftoff from south base at 12:29 p.m. PDT, the vehicle placed 48 Starlink satellites into orbit.

Brian Webb

15 Years of Radio Data Reveals Evidence
of Space-Time Murmur

Scientists have found evidence of a universal background of gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of space-time.

(JUN 28) PASADENA, Calif. - The motion of black holes and other massive objects through space can create ripples in the fabric of the universe, called gravitational waves. On June 28 scientists announced the first evidence of a background of long-wavelength gravitational waves that fills the cosmos. These waves are thought to have been created over eons by supermassive black holes, up to billions of times the mass of our Sun, circling each other before they merge. Detecting the gravitational wave background is analogous to hearing the hum of a large group of people talking at a party, without distinguishing any particular voice.

The background ripples detected by NANOGrav could help scientists better understand how gravitational waves are created and what happens to them as they propagate through the universe. They could also be used to study supermassive black hole mergers, events that can last for millions of years. Scientists think these mergers happen in most galaxies and influence their evolution.

The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) presented the evidence in a series of papers published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. NANOGrav is a National Science Foundation-funded Physics Frontiers Center of more than 190 scientists from the United States and Canada, including scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and other NASA centers. The collaboration has spent more than 15 years collecting high-precision data from ground-based radio telescopes, looking for these gravitational waves.

The discovery complements the first-ever detection of gravitational waves in 2015 by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory. Those signals, at a much shorter wavelength than the new discovery, were from black holes about 30 times the mass of our Sun.

NASA is contributing to the ESA (European Space Agency)-led Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission, a future space-based observatory that will detect gravitational waves that are in a wavelength range between those detected by NANOGrav and LIGO.

To learn more about the new result, read this news release from Caltech: https://www.caltech.edu/about/news/scientists-find-evidence-for-slow-rolling-sea-of-gravitational-waves.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Falcon 9 Launched

(JUN 22) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched Thursday monrning (June 22) from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg SFB, Calif. Following liftoff at 00:19. PDT, the vehicle carried 47 Starlink satellites into orbit.

Brian Webb

Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests Large Rocket Motor at Edwards AFB

Large rocket motor test at Edwards AFB

Aerojet Rocketdyne's successful qualification test of eSR-19, with the Air Force Research Laboratory at an AFRL test facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Image: Aerojet Rocketdyne

(JUN 19) HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully completed the qualification static fire test of the eSR-19, the advanced large solid rocket motor that will power the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) next generation Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) target used to test our nation's missile defense systems.

The successful qualification test, conducted by Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Aerojet Rocketdyne personnel at AFRL's test facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California, paves the way for delivery of flight test motors later this year.

The eSR-19 is a redesigned version of the SR-19 that currently serves as the second stage of the nation's Minuteman III strategic missiles. Featuring a lighter, filament-wound composite case and other performance-enhancing improvements, the eSR-19 will provide the propulsion for both stages of MDA's air-launched, medium-range target vehicle, developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne subsidiary Coleman Aerospace.

The motor was designed and fabricated in Aerojet Rocketdyne facilities in Huntsville, Alabama, and cast and cured in Camden, Arkansas. The eSR-19 motors are later integrated into the target systems by the Coleman Aerospace team in Orlando, Florida.

This recent qualification test was the latest achievement in the evolution of Aerojet Rocketdyne's legacy Large Solid Rocket Motor (LSRM) capabilities, which have included investments in a talented workforce and new modern LSRM facilities.

Aerojet Rocketdyne

Rocket Lab Spacecraft Built for Varda Successfully Operating on Orbit

The spacecraft is the first of four Rocket Lab has been contracted to build for Varda Space Industries to enable in-space manufacturing.

(JUN 13) LONG BEACH, Calif.-- Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) ("Rocket Lab" or "the Company"), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced its spacecraft for Varda Space Industries ("Varda"), a leading in-space manufacturing and hypersonic re-entry logistics company, is successfully operating on orbit after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base today on SpaceX's Transporter-8 mission at 14:35 PDT (21:35 UTC).

The spacecraft was developed, manufactured, and tested at Rocket Lab's Spacecraft Production Facility in Long Beach, California, and it incorporates Rocket Lab-designed and manufactured components and software including star trackers, propulsion system, reaction wheels, solar panels, flight software, radios, composite structures and tanks, and separation systems.

Now successfully operating on orbit, the spacecraft will provide power, communications, propulsion, and attitude control to Varda's 120kg capsule that will produce pharmaceutical products in microgravity and return them to Earth. Upon completion of the in-space manufacturing phase of Varda's mission, Rocket Lab's spacecraft will place Varda's hypersonic re-entry capsule (carrying finished pharmaceuticals on board) on a return trajectory to Earth. The spacecraft is the first of four ordered by Varda to support in-space pharmaceutical manufacturing, with the second spacecraft currently undergoing assembly, integration, and testing.

The Varda spacecraft are part of a growing list of complete satellites in development by Rocket Lab, including a $143 million subcontract by MDA to lead the design and manufacture of 17 spacecraft buses for Globalstar's new Low Earth Orbit satellites. Leveraging the Company's vertically integrated space systems capabilities, Rocket Lab spacecraft incorporate components and subsystems produced in-house to deliver cost efficiencies and accelerated production timelines. Rocket Lab components and subsystems have been successfully flown on more than 1,000 spacecraft globally.

Rocket Lab USA

Falcon 9 Launched

(JUN 13) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched Monday afternoon (June 12) from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg SFB, Calif. Following liftoff at 14:35 p.m. PDT, the vehicle carried 72 small satellites into orbit.

The launch was the ninth flight and recovery for the rocket's first stage.

Brian Webb

Space Systems Command, Spaceflight Inc. Prepare for Launch of Experimental Satellites

(JUN 10) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Space Systems Command (SSC)'s Space Domain Awareness & Combat Power (SDA&CP), is preparing to launch the Space Test Program (STP)-CR2301 mission to deliver three experimental satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). More

Lockheed Awarded Contract

(JUN 2) Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, has been awarded a $122,213,602 modification (P00102) to contract FA8810-18-C-0005 to plan and prepare for post-launch activities for all three Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Geosynchronous Space Vehicles. This contract provides for development of adequate program protection, and product support planning. The modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $7,225,147,630. Work will be performed at Sunnyvale, California, and is expected to be completed by May 31, 2024. Fiscal 2023 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $28,727,026 are being obligated at the time of award. The U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command, Space Sensing, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

Hidden Cyclone

TBD

The first polar cyclone detected on Uranus appears as a bright dot in this Ka-band radio image from the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico. NASA scientists used the VLA to observe radio emissions from the planet in the K, Ka, and Q bands, which allowed them to peer into the gas giant's atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/VLA

Northrop Grumman On Track to Produce Early-Warning Missile Defense Program

(MAY 24) REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) recently completed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command's Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Polar (NGP) program. The company is on track to begin production of the early-warning missile system in defense of the nation.

The design review establishes the company's technical approach for the full integration of the Eagle-3 spacecraft with the infrared sensor, auxiliary and high-bandwidth communication payloads being developed at our Northrop Grumman site in Azusa, Calif.

"Northrop Grumman is on an accelerated path to delivering an early-warning missile system capable of surviving attacks from space, ground or cyber elements," said Alex Fax, vice president, NGP, Northrop Grumman. "NGP satellites will maintain a direct line of communication back to the continental United States, limiting dependency on overseas ground station sites."

The two NGP satellites, operating in highly elliptical orbits, are designed to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles over the Northern Hemisphere. Broad coverage over the polar region offers the highest probability of spotting potential missile launches.

NGP can identify the infrared heat signatures of incoming threats and transmit this mission data to the ground. Based on the threat, decision-makers can then make responsive and informed decisions. This enhanced communication system also has resiliency features that reduce vulnerabilities to counter-space and cyberattacks.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global aerospace and defense technology company. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with the capabilities they need to connect and protect the world, and push the boundaries of human exploration across the universe. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers' toughest problems, our 95,000 employees define possible every day.

Northrop Grumman

Terran Breaks Ground on Manufacturing Facility

(MAY 19) Irvine, Calif. - Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite-based solutions primarily serving the aerospace and defense industries, and W. P. Carey, one of the largest U.S. net lease REITs with over 1,400 properties across the U.S. and Europe, broke ground this morning on a 94,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art satellite manufacturing facility located at 4 Goodyear in Irvine, Calif. In partnership with Terran Orbital, W. P. Carey will redevelop one of its outdated office properties into a new, Class A industrial facility, which will serve as Terran Orbital's fifth production facility. Demolition of the existing building commenced in February 2023, and the project is expected to be completed in January 2024.

The facility will be located on a five-acre site and upon completion will increase Terran Orbital's satellite assembly, integration, and test facility space by over three times the Company's current size. All satellite assembly will be transitioned to this new facility enabling the dedication of Terran Orbital's existing facilities to the production of components and modules. This optimization will enhance the efficiency and capacity of Terran Orbital's entire production system.

The property will have 36-foot clear heights and will be built with several sustainable features, including solar panels on the rooftop and electric vehicle charging stations. It is also expected to receive a LEED Gold certification.

"Terran Orbital is thrilled to break ground on 4 Goodyear," said Terran Orbital Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Bell. "The new facility will propel Terran Orbital to new heights. We are currently working on 30 programs and over 375 satellites, including initial constellation orders for SDA, Rivada, and a new constellation customer announced on May 15. We also look forward to the capacity increase the new facility will create as we continue to onboard contracts and satellite orders. W. P. Carey has been a joy to work with and we look forward to developing this new facility together."

Terran Orbital

Canadian Fires

Wildfires in western Canada

More than 100 wildland fires raged across Western Canada in early May 2023, forcing tens of thousands of people in Alberta and British Columbia to evacuate. The fires destroyed homes and produced chimneys of smoke that reached into the upper troposphere. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite acquired this image of smoke billowing from fires in the two Canadian provinces on May 6. Terra was launched from Vandenberg SFB in 1999. Image courtesy of NASA


Starlink Satellites Launched

(MAY 12) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched Wednesday morning (May 10) from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg SFB, Calif. Following liftoff at 1:09 p.m. PDT, the rocket headed towards the south-southeast and roughly paralleled the coast as it climbed into orbit. After achieving orbit, the vehicle deployed 51 Starlink Internet satellites.

At press time, the webmaster has not received any launch observations. This may be due to the hazy conditions at liftoff.

Brian Webb

Rocket Lab to Launch Small Satellite Swarm for NASA

Four Starling satellites have been added to Electron's 2023 manifest

(MAY 9) LONG BEACH, Calif. - Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) ("Rocket Lab" or "the Company"), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced it has signed a deal to launch NASA's Starling mission, a multi-CubeSat mission to test and demonstrate autonomous swarm technologies, as well as automated space traffic management for groups of spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.

The four Starling small satellites have been manifested on an Electron commercial rideshare mission scheduled for lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand in Q3 this year. Rocket Lab will deliver the satellites to space within three months of the contract signing.

The Starling mission is designed to test technologies to enable future "swarm" missions. Spacecraft swarms refer to multiple spacecraft autonomously coordinating their activities to achieve certain goals. Starling will explore technologies for in-space network communications, onboard relative navigation between spacecraft, autonomous maneuver planning and execution, and distributed science autonomy.

"Electron has been delivering rapid and reliable access to orbit for NASA since 2018 and we're delighted to continue that strong heritage with the Starling mission," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. "Starling has the potential to revolutionize the way science is done in orbit and we're immensely proud to make that possible."

NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate manages the Starling project. The program is based at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. Starling joins a growing list of NASA missions launched by Rocket Lab since 2018, including the ELaNa-19 educational CubeSat program, the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon, and two dedicated Electron launches for the NASA TROPICS mission.

Rocket Lab

Massive Radio Array to Search for Extraterrestrial Signals from Other Civilizations

The SETI Institute, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Breakthrough Listen Initiative team up for COSMIC and SETI

(MAY 1) Mountain View, CA - One of the world's most powerful radio telescope arrays is joining the hunt for signals from other galactic civilizations. More

Falcon 9 Launched

(APR 29) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. Thursday morning (April 27). Following liftoff at 6:40 a.m. PDT, the vehicle carried 46 spacecraft into orbit. The launch was the thirteenth flight and landing for the rocket's first stage.

Brian Webb

625th Strategic Operations Squadron Lights Up the Night Sky

(APR 24) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- This past week, a team of dedicated Airmen and Sailors took to the skies to fire an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) over the Pacific Ocean during an Operational Test Launch, known as a Glory Trip. More

Minuteman III Test Launch Showcases Readiness of U.S. Nuclear Force's Safe, Effective Deterrent

Minuteman III launch

An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was conducted April 19 at 5:11 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The missile used in GT-246 launched in the early hours of the morning with a launch command delivered from the Air Launch Control System on a Navy E-6 TACAMO aircraft. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

(APR 19) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. - A joint team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen and Navy aircrew launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with one test re-entry vehicle More

Falcon 9 Carries 51 Spacecraft into Orbit

(APR 15) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. late Friday evening (April 14). Following liftoff at 11:48 p.m. PDT, the vehicle carried 51 spacecraft into orbit. The launch was the tenth flight and recovery for the rocket's first stage.

The following links have additional information about the spacecraft launched on this mission:

Kenya launches first operational satellite into space -Space X
https://news.yahoo.com/kenya-launches-first-operational-satellite-084147053.html

Turkiye launches its 1st indigenous Earth observation satellite into space
https://www.aa.com.tr/en/science-technology/turkiye-launches-its-1st-indigenous-earth-observation-satellite-into-space/2872697

Watch: Dubai's DEWA Sat-2 nanosatellite launched on SpaceX rocket from California
https://gulfnews.com/uae/science/watch-dubais-dewa-sat-2-nanosatellite-launched-on-spacex-rocket-from-california-1.95141309

Momentus Launches Vigoride-6 Orbital Service Vehicle on SpaceX Transporter-7 Mission
https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20230413005886/en/Momentus-Launches-Vigoride-6-Orbital-Service-Vehicle-on-SpaceX-Transporter-7-Mission

Brian Webb

Iberian Contrails

TBD

Long streaks of cloud crisscrossed the skies over the Iberian Peninsula on April 7. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA's Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of the complex pattern on that same day. The streaks are a type of cirrus cloud known as a "contrail". Cirrus clouds typically form in the sky when humidity is high, but contrails form in the wake of passing aircraft due to particles and water vapor contained in their exhaust. Terra was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 1999. Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

Unarmed Minuteman III Test Launch to Showcase Readiness of U.S. Nuclear Force's Safe, Effective Deterrent

(APR 5) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled for April 19 from 11:47 p.m. to April 20, 5:47 a.m. Pacific Time from north Vandenberg.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear deterrent, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

This test is routine and was scheduled years in advance. Consistent with previous test launches, this ICBM test launch will validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system.

In accordance with standard procedures, the United States has transmitted a pre-launch notification pursuant to the Hague Code of Conduct, and notified the Russian government in advance, per our existing bi-lateral obligations.

Vandenberg SFB

Space Development Agency Successfully Launches Tranche 0 Satellites

SDA delivers first 10 satellites on-orbit, two-and-a-half years from award to launch

(APR 2) The Space Development Agency (SDA) today announced the successful initial launch of Tranche 0 (T0) of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), the Transport and Tracking Layer satellites that will demonstrate the low-latency communication links to support the warfighter with a resilient network of integrated capabilities, including tracking of advanced missile threats, from low-Earth orbit (LEO). More

Joint NASA, CNES Water-Tracking Satellite Reveals First Stunning Views

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission offers the first taste of the detailed perspectives of Earth's surface water that its cutting-edge instruments will be able to capture.

SWOT spacecraft image of the Gulf Stream

Sea level data gathered Jan. 21 in the Gulf Stream by SWOT's KaRIn instrument, visualized at left, has 10 times the spatial resolution of data taken over the same area by altimeters on seven other satellites, visualized at right. Red represents sea levels higher than the global average, while blue is lower. Credit: left: NASA/JPL-Caltech; right: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Copernicus Marine Service of ESA

(MAR 24) The international Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission - led by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) - has sent back some of its first glimpses of water on the planet's surface, showing ocean currents like the Gulf Stream in unprecedented detail. More

Northrop Grumman Enhances Design of Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Polar Satellites

Digital technology keeps the development of polar-orbit missile-warning satellites on an accelerated pace

(MAR 14) REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has refined the design of Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Polar (NGP) satellites by leveraging digital technology called Highly Immersive Virtual Environment (HIVE). The satellites are being built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Space Force's Space Systems Command (SSC).

Northrop Grumman's HIVE technology allows engineers to design, build, maintain and service satellites in virtual reality before any hardware is manufactured or procured. Real-time modeling, simulation, visualization and human interaction reduce technical costs and risks early in the development phases.

"With digital engineering, we can move through the design, testing and manufacturing phases quickly and with agility, saving money and significantly reducing development timelines for large systems," said Carol Erikson, vice president, systems engineering and digital transformation, Northrop Grumman.

As part of the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared System (Next-Gen OPIR), two NGP satellites will provide precise, timely sensor coverage over the northern hemisphere to help deter and defend against ballistic and hypersonic missiles. NGP combines Northrop Grumman's proven experience in missile warning and defense with a commitment to delivering NGP at an accelerated pace.

During a recent HIVE demonstration, conducted at the company's facility in Redondo Beach, California, Northrop Grumman engineers donned virtual-reality goggles and motion-capture suits to simulate the integration and assembly of the satellites' key components. Engineers validated the NGP design and will continue to use digital technology in the next stages of the satellites' development.

In March 2022, Northrop Grumman announced its partnership with Ball Aerospace to design and develop the two NGP satellite infrared payloads in the first phase of a $1.89 billion SSC contract.

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman Test Fires Stage-One Solid Rocket Motor for Sentinel Missile

Sentinel ICBM rocket motor test

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center conducted its first full-scale static test fire of the LGM-35A Sentinel stage-one solid rocket motor at the Northrop Grumman test facility in Promontory, Utah, March 2. The Air Force plans to replace the fielded Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile with the next-generation Sentinel system currently in development. The Sentinel acquisition program represents the modernization of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw).

(MAR 6) PROMONTORY, Utah. - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) conducted its first full-scale static test fire of the Sentinel stage-one solid rocket motor at the company's test facility in Promontory. More

Falcon 9 Launched

(MAR 3) After several delays, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 51 Starlink satelllites was launched this morning from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. at 10:38 PST.

Brian Webb

Celestial Close Encounter

Venus Jupiter conjunction

Venus and Jupiter as seen from Los Angeles, Calif. 30 minutes after sunset on March 1. Image: SkyMap

(FEB 25) Weather permitting, observers in Southwest and beyond will see a celestial close encounter the evening of March 1 when Venus and Jupiter will be separated by half a degree. Their apparent proximity will be an illusion, however. The planets will lie in the same direction as seen from Earth, but be in different parts of the solar system. To see the display, look in the west about 30 minutes after sunset.

Brian Webb

Falcon 9 Launched

(FEB 17) A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 51 Starlink satelllites was launched this morning from Vandenberg SFB, Calif. at 11:12 PST.

Brian Webb

Northrop Grumman Validates Sentinel Missile Design through Rigorous Wind Tunnel Testing Campaign

Live-fire results with scaled missiles correlate with digital models, offering further proof of design maturity

(FEB 16) ROY, Utah. - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully completed a series of wind tunnel tests of the LGM-35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). More

Minuteman III Test Launch Showcases Readiness of U.S. Nuclear Force's Safe, Effective Deterrent

Minuteman III missile launch

An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operation test at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., Feb. 9, 2023. Image Credit: Courtesy photo via Department of Defense

(FEB 10) BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 11:01 p.m. Pacific Time Feb. 9 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. More

Falcon 9 Launched

(FEB 3) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched January 31 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. The vehicle lifted off from south base at 08:15 PST and flew southward as it carried 49 Starlink Internet satellites and an Italian rideshare payload into orbit.

A few minutes after launch, Bob Brown sent the following report to the webmaster:

"Just had to send you a note about the launch from Vandenberg that took place 5 minutes ago. In all the years that I've observed launches from my street between Santa Barbara and Goleta, this was easily the clearest,most vibrant view of the rocket (through binocs) that I've ever seen. I credit that to the crisp, clear winter air and side lighting from an early morning sun. The shock waves haven't hit here just yet but should occur any moment. Just WOW!!"

Brian Webb

Falcon 9 Launched - Finally

Falcon 9 Starlink launch

A SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket carrying Starlink mission 2-4 launches from Space Launch Complex-4E on Jan. 19, 2023, 7:43 a.m. PDT, Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. Since 1958, there have been 2,023 launches on base. This launch also makes it the 100th launch from SLC-4E since 1964. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiarra Sibley)

(JAN 21) After multiple delays, a Falcon 9 rocket was launched January 19 at 7:43 a.m. PST from Vandenberg SFB. Following liftoff, the vehicle headed south-southeast and roughly paralleled the coast as it carried 51 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit. The launch was seen from Newbury Park and Simi Valley and was reportedly heard in Oxnard.

Brian Webb

Update on "Start Me Up" Mission Anomaly

(JAN 12) Preliminary analysis of data from the Start Me Up mission has begun to shed light on the outcome of the January 9th flight and next steps to follow. More

Space Systems Command Launches EWS Cubesat Technical Demonstration

(JAN 3) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Space Systems Command successfully launched its Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Weather Systems (EWS) cubesat technical demonstration this morning onboard the SpaceX Transporter-6 mission at 9:56 a.m. (Eastern, 6:56 a.m. Pacific) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

This one-year EWS cubesat technical demonstration will prove out emerging space-based EO/IR radiometric imaging technology, using a smaller sensor to provide timely weather imagery data from low Earth orbit (LEO).

"The EWS cubesat technical demonstration effort represents SSC's continued commitment to working with non-traditional partners to broaden the competitive industrial base. If successful, this will provide an innovative option to deliver Space-Based Environmental Monitoring data to the warfighter at an operationally relevant speed," said Lt. Col. Joe Maguadog, EWS Materiel Leader and Program Manager. "This demonstration will inform our transition toward a more affordable, scalable, and resilient EO/IR weather constellation."

In February 2002, the EWS program competitively selected two vendors to develop and launch two separate sensor prototypes. Orion Space Solutions, a non-traditional government contractor, delivered the cubesat for this demonstration. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group will deliver the second prototype by 2025.

This launch satisfies the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congressional mandate to launch a weather EO/IR pathfinder prototype by FY23. The program expects the first transmittal of data early in the new year.

Space Systems Command

Past News

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