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2022 August 16 18:45 PDT

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What's New?
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AUG 16 Vandenberg SFB Launch Schedule updated

Next Vandenberg Launch
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As of August 16

The next announced Vandenberg SFB rocket launch is Delta IV Heavy in August. Vehicle will launch the classified NROL-91 payload into orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

For a complete listing 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.

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

(AUG 16) BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test re-entry vehicle from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California ... More

Falcon 9 Launched

(AUG 12) A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 46 Starlink internet satellites was successfully launched today (August 12) from Vandenberg SFB at 2:40:20 p.m. PDT (21:40:20 UTC).

I observed the launch from approximately 95 statute miles east-southeast of the launch site. The first stage burn was visible to the unaided eye, but it was an unimpressive orange speck. However, the view through 10x tripod-mounted binoculars was much better. I could clearly see detail within the elongated orange flame and was able to follow the Falcon 9 all the way to first stage cutoff. The image quality through the binoculars was degraded due to shimmering from the heat.

Brian Webb

Northwestern Rocket to Image Supernova Remnant

Project will study how the explosion spreads ‘star stuff’ throughout the galaxy

(AUG 11) EVANSTON, Ill. - A Northwestern University astrophysics team is aiming for the stars - well, a dead star, that is.

On Aug. 21, the NASA-funded team will launch its "Micro-X" rocket from White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. The rocket will spend 15 minutes in space — just enough time to snap a quick image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, a star in the Cassiopeia constellation that exploded approximately 11,000 light-years away from Earth. Then, the rocket will parachute back to Earth, landing in the desert — about 45 miles from the launchpad — where the Northwestern team will recover its payload.

Short for “high-resolution microcalorimeter X-ray imaging rocket,” the Micro-X rocket will carry a superconductor-based X-ray imaging spectrometer that is capable of measuring the energy of each incoming X-ray from astronomical sources with unprecedented accuracy.

"The supernova remnant is so hot that most of the light it emits is not in the visible range," said Northwestern’s Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano, who leads the project. "We have to use X-ray imaging, which isn't possible from Earth because our atmosphere absorbs X-rays. That's why we have to go into space. It's like if you jumped into the air, snapped a photo just as your head peeked above the atmosphere and then landed back down."

Northwestern University

Satellite Watcher

Research instrument

Grace Halferty, a University of Arizona senior poses with an instrument built by U of A faculty and students as part of a study to measure the brightness and position of SpaceX Starlink satellites. The research team made 353 measurements of 61 satellites over two years and compared their information with government satellite tracking data. Their findings were published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The information may help astronomers prevent astronomical images from being tainted by satellite trails. Image Credit: Kyle Mittan/University Communications

Northrop Grumman Missile Warning Payload Launched

(AUG 4) AZUSA, Calif. - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has played a vital role in the successful deployment of the missile warning satellite for the U.S. Space Force's sixth and final mission in the Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO)-6 program series.

Working in partnership with prime contractor Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman designed and built the mission payload, which is equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors that launched today aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. SBIRS GEO-6 joins the U.S. Space Force's constellation of satellites in support of the missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness and technical intelligence areas.

In addition to the mission payload, Northrop Grumman provided propulsion, key composite structures and other critical components on the Atlas V launch vehicle. Two Northrop Grumman 63-inch diameter Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM 63) solid rocket boosters provided additional thrust at launch to enhance the lift capability of the Atlas V launch vehicle and support the rocket's ability to place payloads in desired orbits.

"Northrop Grumman's payloads and components provide the military with critical missile warning capabilities for our warfighters and allies," said Aaron Dann, vice president, Strategic Force Programs, Northrop Grumman. "The launch of SBIRS GEO-6 marks the end of a proud legacy on this program, one that involved Northrop Grumman from the very first mission in 2011, and demonstrates our continued leadership in support of missile tracking and defense architecture."

Northrop Grumman's proven experience in missile detection, identification, tracking and communication systems positions the company as a key provider of future early-warning missile systems that offer expanded capabilities, including the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Polar program, in support of the United States and allied nations. Visit the Northrop Grumman website to read more about Northrop Grumman's missile defense capabilities.

Northrop Grumman

X-Bow Successfully Launches "Bolt" Rocket

Bolt is the first in X-Bow's new suite of sub-orbital and orbital capable launch vehicles

(JUL 26) WHITE SANDS, N.M. -- X-Bow Systems (X-Bow), today confirmed the successful first launch of its Bolt Rocket at White Sands Missile Range. Bolt is the first vehicle in X-Bow's new suite of modular boost rockets. The mission, named XL-2, carried a Payload Test Vehicle for the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). With the success of this launch, the X-Bow team continues to usher new technologies, capabilities and competition into the solid rocket motor (SRM) Industrial Base.

X-Bow's team will now examine the XL-2 mission data, inspect the recovered hardware and move on to test its additively manufactured solid propellant technology on its second mission, sponsored by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and the Department of Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Multiple further launches of increasing size and capabilities in support of, and under contract with additional customers are scheduled through 2024 and beyond. X-Bow also continues to offer its Bolt 'Orbital Vehicle' to the U.S. Space Force on the OSP-4 contract.

The Bolt launch follows last month's successful static fire of the 32" diameter Ballesta Solid Rocket Motor. The Ballesta motor and the Bolt rocket were both built and assembled in tactical field conditions with minimal tools and handling gear. At full production, X-Bow will launch monthly, or more frequently, from various sub-orbital ranges across the US and its territories.

X-Bow Systems

Booster Test

Booster test

Northrop Grumman Corporation and NASA successfully conduct a full-scale static fire of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket motor in Promontory, Utah on July 21. The five-segment solid rocket booster is the world's largest solid rocket motor and will provide more than 75 percent of the SLS rocket's initial thrust during launch. Over 300 measurement channels assessed the 154-foot-long solid rocket booster as it fired for just over two minutes producing upwards of 3.6 million pounds of thrust. Image: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman

Falcon 9 Launched

(JUL 22) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched this morning from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. The vehicle lifted off as scheduled from Space Launch Complex 4-East at 10:39:40 a.m. PDT and carried 46 Starlink satellites into orbit. Approximately one hour after launch, the Falcon 9 upper stage was spun up and the satellites were deployed en masse.

Brian Webb

Hypersonic Test Conducted Off California Coast

(JUL 13) EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- The Air Force conducted another successful hypersonic test off the Southern California coast, July 12.

The Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon Booster Test Flight-3 was the 12th flight for the program and third release demonstration. The AGM-183A weapons system reached hypersonic speeds and primary and secondary objectives were met.

"This was another important milestone for the Air Force's first air-launched hypersonic weapon. The test successfully demonstrated booster performance expanding the operational envelope. We have now completed our booster test series and are ready to move forward to all-up-round testing later this year. Congratulations to the entire ARRW team, your dedication and expertise are what got us here," said Brig Gen. Heath Collins, Armament Directorate program executive officer.

ARRW is designed to provide the ability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets. It will also expand precision-strike weapon systems' capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Waking Sun


The presence of several sunspots provided more evidence that solar activity is on the upswing as part of Solar Cycle 25. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded this white-light view of of Sun and its spots on July 10. Credit: NASA

Minotaur II+ Explodes Shortly After Liftoff

(JUL 7) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Minotaur II+ rocket exploded approximately 11 seconds after launching from Test Pad-01 at 11:01 p.m. Wednesday.

There were no injuries in the explosion and the debris was contained to the immediate vicinity of the launch pad.

"We always have emergency response teams on standby prior to every launch," said Col. Kris Barcomb, Space Launch Delta 30 vice commander and launch decision authority for this launch. "Safety is our priority at all times."

An investigative review board has been established to determine the cause of the explosion.

Vandenberg SFB

Airborne Launch Carries Satellites into Orbit

(JUL 2) OFF THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COASTLINE – Space Systems Command and Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit National Systems, a US-incorporated, wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, successfully air-launched seven Department of Defense Research and Development satellites for the U.S. Space Force on the company's LauncherOne rocket, after taking off Friday evening from Mojave Air and Space Port, California.

The nighttime mission, designated STP-S28A, demonstrated commercially available solutions to place Space Force satellite capabilities on-orbit, providing flexibility and resiliency for the Space Force and warfighter requirements in an increasingly contested environment.

"Congratulations to the STP team and our mission partners on today's successful launch," said Brig. Gen. Timothy Sejba, program executive officer for Space Domain and Combat Power, which manages the DoD Space Test Program. "The STP team continues to demonstrate how agile access to space enables us to quickly and affordably prove out new R&D technology on-orbit, accelerating the development of our future, more resilient, space architecture."

"I'm thrilled with today's successful launch," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Shea, director of the DoD Space Test Program. "Cost effective space access is key to the U.S. Space Force's pivot to a more resilient space architecture. This launch with Virgin Orbit exemplifies SSC's commitment to expanding partnerships with innovative companies and accelerating the delivery of future capabilities for the Warfighter."

According to Shea, these new space vehicles will contribute to the nation's defense and gain ground against any adversaries operating in the highly contested space domain.

Space Systems Command, headquartered at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Space Force field command responsible for rapidly developing, acquiring, equipping, fielding and sustaining lethal and resilient space capabilities. SSC mission capability areas include launch acquisition and operations, communications and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), space sensing, battle management command, control and communications (BMC3), and space domain awareness & combat power.

Space Systems Command

Layered Rocks

Layered rocks on Mars

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this view of layered, flaky rocks (click to enlarge) believed to have formed in an ancient streambed or small pond. The six images that make up this mosaic were captured using Curiosity's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, on June 2, 2022, the 3,492nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Curiosity is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

National Guard Coordinates Transport of German Satellite

(JUN 23) ARLINGTON, Va. -- A rocket carrier is barely recognizable from a distance on a typically foggy June morning at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. More

Falcon 9 Launched

(JUN 18) A Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched this morning from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The vehicle lifted off from south base as planned at 07:19 PDT, the presumed start of an unannounced launch window. Following liftoff, the Falcon 9 headed south as it carried the German military's SARah-1 Earth-imaging satellite into orbit.

Brian Webb

Electromagnetic Testing

SunRISE spacecraft testing

A model of NASA's Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) spacecraft undergoes testing in an electromagnetic anechoic chamber at Utah State University. SunRISE is designed to observe powerful solar storms that send trillions of tons of charged matter toward Earth. The test was conducted by the university's Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) to ensure the spacecraft did not interfere with the payload's sensitive measurements. (Allison Bills/SDL photo)

NASA Eyes November for Launch of NOAA's JPSS-2

(MAY 31) NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are now targeting Nov. 1, 2022, as the new launch date for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) satellite mission. More

Starliner Test Flight Completed

(MAY 25) WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO - Boeing's [NYSE: BA] CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 5:49 p.m. Central Time. The safe return to Earth brings a close to the successful end-to-end uncrewed orbital flight test that was flown to demonstrate the quality and performance of the transportation system prior to crewed flights.

"We have had an excellent flight test of a complex system that we expected to learn from along the way and we have," said Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program. "Thank you to the NASA and Boeing teammates who have put so much of themselves into Starliner."

The flight test completed today began May 19 with a launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Capabilities the Starliner demonstrated included:

  • End-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft through launch, ascent, on-orbit, re-entry and landing;

  • Starliner's autonomous software and the on-orbit operation of its avionics system, docking system, communications/telemetry systems, environmental control systems, solar arrays, electrical power systems, and propulsion systems;

  • Ability to hold docking attitude, receive commands from the space station crew, and command holds and retreats during final station approach;

  • Battery charging, hatch open and close, establishing joint ventilation with the station, file transfer and cargo transfer.

When Starliner completes its next flight, Boeing will have fulfilled NASA's goal of having two commercial vehicles to transport astronauts safely, reliably and sustainably to the station from American soil.

"With the completion of OFT-2, we will incorporate lessons learned and continue working to prepare for the crewed flight test and NASA certification," Nappi added.


Are We Alone in the Cosmos? Space Dynamics Lab to Help Answer the Question

Testing hardware for Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope

SDL Mechanical Engineering Associate Paul Fluckiger (left), Mechanical Engineer Trever Mitton (center), and JPL Cryogenic Thermal Subsystem Project Lead Weibo Chen prepare the CTS for delivery to JPL at SDL facilities in North Logan, Utah. (Credit: SDL/Kelden Peterson)

(MAY 17) Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory announced Tuesday that it has delivered a critical subsystem to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for integration onto the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. More

Get Ready for More Flares

(MAY 3) A new and potentially very active sunspot group emerged today. It announced itself with an X1-class solar flare, which caused a strong shortwave radio blackout over the Atlantic Ocean and Europe. More flares may be in the offing as the sunspot turns toward Earth.

Solar Flare

Solar Flare

As it rotated behind the Sun, sunspot AR2994 produced an X1-class solar flare on April 30. The radiation from the explosion was strong enough to cause a strong shortwave radio blackout over the Atlantic and Europe. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory imaged the solar flare (click to enlarge) which is visible as a red plume on the right edge of the Sun. Image Credit: NASA

NASA Gives Green Light for OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft to Visit Another Asteroid

(APR 25) NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will swing by Earth to deliver a sample from asteroid Bennu on Sept. 24, 2023. But it won't clock out after that. More

NGC Expands Satellite Manufacturing Facility

(APR 22) GILBERT, Ariz. – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) today marked the completion of its expansion of the satellite manufacturing facility at its Gilbert, Arizona campus. The expansion adds 120,000 sq. ft to the existing 135,000 sq. ft. facility, nearly doubling the site's production capacity to meet the company's growing backlog of satellite orders.

Programs currently in production at the Gilbert facility include the JPSS-2, -3 and -4 Earth observation satellites for NASA and NOAA as well as several ESPAStar and more than 30 ESPASat satellites for various customers, with capacity for many more per year. The facility will also be home to the integration and testing of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), the first module of NASA's Lunar Gateway that will serve as a space station orbiting the moon, providing vital support for long-term human exploration of the lunar surface and deep space.

The 30-acre Northrop Grumman Gilbert campus features a total of 435,000 sq. feet of space for satellite design, engineering, manufacturing, testing, and program management. The satellite manufacturing facility is designed to enable the manufacture of spacecraft under one roof.

The flexibility built into the facility allows for the production of spacecraft ranging from larger mission-unique satellites to the large-scale production of small satellites, enabling the agility required to meet customer needs.

Northrop Grumman

Environmental Testing

Psyche spacecraft environmental testing

NASA's Psyche spacecraft heads to the vacuum chamber for environmental testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The craft is slated for launch from Florida this summer when it will begin a 1.5 billion mile (2.4 billion kilometer) journey to the metallic asteroid Psyche. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Amazon Signs Launch Contract with ULA

(APR 5) Centennial, Colo. - United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today that Amazon has selected its next-generation Vulcan rocket for 38 launches supporting deployment for its ambitious Project Kuiper, Amazon's initiative to increase global broadband access through a constellation of 3,236 advanced satellites in low Earth orbit.

"We strongly believe in the mission of Project Kuiper. We are honored to be entrusted with the majority of Amazon's launches with a total of 47 missions, including the nine Atlas launches already on contract," said Tory Bruno, ULA's president and CEO. "At ULA we are focused on serving our customers and partnering with them to provide unmatched flight capabilities and mission operations and assurance, to provide the lowest risk and best-value launch solution."

The Vulcan missions will launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

"ULA has decades of experience and a proven track record across dozens of successful commercial and government missions, and we're proud to have them on our team," said Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon. "Our work together to enhance launch operations at Cape Canaveral stands to benefit the broader space industry and contribute to greater resilience in space operations."

"Vulcan Centaur's unique, single-core, heavy lift design, coupled with its industry-leading large payload fairing, makes it an excellent fit for Amazon's deployment of the majority of its Project Kuiper constellation," said Chris Ellerhorst, ULA director of Strategy, Business Development and Sales. "In addition to the launches, this partnership includes substantial investments made by both companies in high-rate production, launch vehicle improvements, and launch infrastructure, to support Amazon's long-term launch needs, which is great for the U.S. aerospace industry and supply chain."

Amazon's goal for Project Kuiper is to make high-speed, low-latency broadband more affordable and accessible for unserved and underserved communities around the world. The initiative is designed to serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses, government agencies, and other organizations operating in places without reliable broadband services.

United Launch Alliance

Northrop Grumman Tests Abort Motor

(MAR 31) PROMONTORY, Utah - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Lockheed Martin successfully performed the final full-scale ground test of the abort motor for NASA's Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Northrop Grumman's Promontory test facility. The 17-foot-tall abort motor is one of three motors comprising the LAS that sits atop the Orion spacecraft aboard NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and is designed to increase astronaut safety on the pad and through initial ascent.

Approximately 250 measurement channels assessed the abort motor as the four exhaust nozzles pointing skyward produced nearly 400,000 pounds of thrust over its two-second firing time. Today's test concludes the verification of a new insulation formulation and completes qualification testing for the Orion's LAS.

"This impressive, high-impulse motor burns three times faster than a typical motor of this size, and if needed, the reverse-flow nozzles pull the crew capsule away from the launch vehicle and to safety," said Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. "Together, the three solid rocket motors of the LAS equip the SLS with the highest human-rated thrust and acceleration safety system possible."

The first active LAS system will be integrated into the Orion spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed flight of SLS.

Northrop Grumman

Spring Arrives

Great Lakes from space

High mountains are dusted in snow while only a few areas are green as spring arrives in the western U.S. NASA's Terra spacecraft recorded the scene in natural color during a daylight pass over the region on March 24. Terra was launched aboard a Delta II rocket from from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California in 1999. Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

International Sea Level Satellite Takes Over From Predecessor

(MAR 22) On March 22, the newest U.S.-European sea level satellite, named Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, became the official reference satellite for global sea level measurements. More

STSS Satellites Complete Mission

(MAR 15) REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - Built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) in support of the Missile Defense Agency, two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) satellites successfully completed their missions and have been retired. Their achievements pave the way for future operational missile warning and tracking systems that will defend the nation.

"Launched in 2009 and expected to operate for four years, these demonstration satellites outlived their design life threshold three times over," said Sarah Willoughby, vice president, overhead persistent infrared and geospatial systems, Northrop Grumman. "Now we are applying what we learned from STSS for future systems to keep America and its allies safe."

The STSS experimental spacecraft proved their ability to detect and track short-, medium-, intermediate- and intercontinental-range missiles from boost phase to midcourse, then communicate target-quality track data to command and control systems for interception.

The satellites used sensors to detect and track ballistic missiles for interception. They tracked targets; helped discriminate real threats, guide interceptors to targets, and assess interceptor hits; collected data on launches, on-orbit satellites, satellite re-entries and other space-based missions; and played a critical role in one of MDA's integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System flight test.

Northrop Grumman

Vibration Test

HERSCHEL payload vibration testing

The HElium Resonance Scatter in the Corona and HELiosphere (HERSCHEL) payload undergoes vibration testing at the White Sands Missile Facility in New Mexico. HERSCHEL will study the origin of the slow solar wind, investigate the variation of helium abundance in the Sun's corona, and facilitate future investigation of coronal mass ejections and other solar dynamics. The payload is scheduled for launch aboard a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from White Sands Missile Range as soon as March 7. Image credit: Credits: NASA/Ted Gacek

Austin Postpones Test of Minuteman III Missile

(MAR 2) WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III exemplified how a responsible nuclear nation should behave and postponed a long-planned test launch of an American Minuteman III rocket, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today during a news conference. More

Falcon 9 Launched

(FEB 26) A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched Friday, February 25 from Vandenberg Space Force Base on California's Central Coast. The vehicle lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E on south base at 9:12 a.m. PST (17:12 UTC) during an instantaneous launch window and paralleled the coast as it gained altitude. The rocket later delivered 50 Starlink satellites into orbit.

The rocket's first stage was recovered on the drone ship "Of Course I still Love You" stationed off the coast of Baja California.

Although the launch occurred well after sunrise, very clear weather made the initial portion of the event visible to the unaided eye for at least 100 statute miles.

Brian Webb

Polar Glow


Jupiter's north and south polar regions glow purple in this x-ray image from NASA's NuSTAR spacecraft. The purple represents the highest-energy light ever detected from the planet. NuSTAR cannot locate the source of the light with high precision, but can only find that the light is coming from somewhere in the purple-colored regions. The NuSTAR mission is led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Firm Selected for Rocket to
Return First Mars Samples

(FEB 7) WASHINGTON, D.C. - NASA has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Space of Littleton, Colorado, to build the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), a small, lightweight rocket to launch rock, sediment, and atmospheric samples from the surface of the Red Planet.

Set to become the first rocket fired off another planet, the MAV is a crucial part of a campaign to retrieve samples collected by NASA's Perseverance rover and deliver them to Earth for advanced study. NASA's Sample Retrieval Lander, another important part of the campaign, would carry the MAV to Mars' surface, landing near or in Jezero Crater to gather the samples cached by Perseverance. The samples would be returned to the lander, which would serve as the launch platform for the MAV. With the sample container secured, the MAV would then launch.

Once it reaches Mars orbit, the container would be captured by an ESA (European Space Agency) Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft outfitted with NASA's Capture, Containment, and Return System payload. The spacecraft would bring the samples to Earth safely and securely in the early- to mid-2030s.

Returning a sample is complicated, and MAV faces some complex development challenges. It must be robust enough to withstand the harsh Mars environment and adaptable enough to work with multiple spacecraft. It also must be small enough to fit inside the Sample Retrieval Lander. The Sample Retrieval Lander is planned for launch no earlier than 2026 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Lockheed Martin Space will provide multiple MAV test units and a flight unit. Work under the contract includes designing, developing, testing, and evaluating the integrated MAV system, and designing and developing of the rocket's ground support equipment.

The cost-plus-fixed-fee Mars Ascent Vehicle Integrated System (MAVIS) contract has a potential value of $194 million. The performance period begins no later than Feb. 25 and will extend six years.

This strategic NASA and ESA partnership would be the first mission to return samples from another planet and the first launch from the surface of another planet. The samples collected by Perseverance during its exploration of an ancient river delta are thought to present the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for life.


NROL-87 Launched From Vandenberg Wednesday

(FEB 2) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg launched the National Reconnaissance Office mission (NROL-87) from Space Launch Complex-4 here Wednesday, Feb. 2, at 12:27 p.m. Pacific Time.

Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, was the launch decision authority.

"The Western Range has a storied history of success alongside the National Reconnaissance Office. I'm proud of the team's dedication and focus in conducting safe launch and range operations to ensure this vital national security program succeeded," said Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander. "We are proud to achieve another first together with the NRO and SpaceX, and demonstrate once again how our strong and lasting partnerships lead to mission success."

Space Launch Delta 30's primary responsibilities include maintaining and operating the Western range, providing mission assurance, safeguarding the public and ensuring minimal environmental impact so we can provide services, facilities and range safety control for the execution of DoD, civil and commercial launches.

Vandenberg SFB

Active Region


A new sunspot named AR2936 (active region 2936) quadrupled in size in only 48 hours and hurled a solar flare and coronal mass ejection towards Earth on January 30. The National Solar Observatory recorded this view of the Sun and AR2936 from Boulder, Colorado the same day. Image courtesy NSO

NASA Awards Virgin Orbit Launch Services Contract

(JAN 27) LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA - Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) announced today its selection by NASA's Launch Services Program to provide launch services for the agency's Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated Rideshare (VADR) missions. The fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will leverage commercial satellite launch practices, and together with the flexibility afforded by Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne system enables more efficient launch timelines, mission-tailored orbits, and competitive costs.

"This contract award is a great step forward for commercial space," said Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit. "The VADR contract vehicle now provides a platform for NASA to more easily contract for flights on our LauncherOne service. That means it will be easier than ever for us to work with NASA to provide targeted and economic access to space, maximizing the science gains from their small satellite missions and enabling ever greater technological innovation."

Virgin Orbit has already launched thirteen satellites to space for NASA through programs like the Venture Class Launch Services program and the CubeSat Launch Initiative. In a similar spirit the VADR acquisition will build on that foundation. The contract has a five-year ordering period with a maximum total value of $300 million and will be managed by the Launch Services Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA's selection of Virgin Orbit as a VADR launch provider comes fresh off the company's third successful launch in under twelve months, wherein it brought its unblemished count of successfully deployed satellites to 26. Having already proven out the LauncherOne system, reached new orbital inclinations never before possible from the West Coast, and even launched through inclement weather, Virgin Orbit is now scaling up its flight rate to accommodate the high demand seen from commercial customers, the national security community, the international community and, through programs like VADR, the US civil space community.

Virgin Orbit

ICEYE US Wins NRO Contract

(JAN 20) Irvine, CALIFORNIA - ICEYE US, a subsidiary of ICEYE, the global leader in persistent Earth monitoring with radar satellite imaging, announced today that it has received a contract from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). This contract enables ICEYE US to participate in the NRO's evaluation of commercial remote sensing companies operating synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.

With a focus on modeling and simulation, ICEYE US will support NRO's detailed assessment of imaging modes, image quality, geolocation accuracy and coverage among other important technical parameters. The contract represents a critical step in NRO's plan to leverage next generation commercial radar providers to deliver innovative, resilient, and responsive satellite imagery for intelligence, defense, and humanitarian efforts.

ICEYE US builds and operates U.S.-licensed SAR spacecraft from its facility in Irvine, California. The company successfully launched its first-ever satellite earlier this month with SpaceX and Exolaunch. ICEYE's satellites are small, each weighing about 220 pounds, but provide customers with detailed images and measurements of activities on the surface of the Earth. Such satellites can be continually improved on ground and in space with new technologies and in response to specific customer requirements.

At any given time, most of the Earth is covered in clouds or darkness. Unlike traditional Earth observation satellites, ICEYE's small radar imaging satellites can form high-resolution images of areas of the Earth in daylight, at night, and through cloud cover. In other words, they can "see" any part of the Earth multiple times a day. ICEYE's satellites can collect images over wide areas and even more detailed images over smaller points of interest. This provides customers with persistent coverage of fast breaking events on the ground in all weather conditions.


Great Lakes

Great Lakes from space

Frigid weather and strong winds collaborated to created spectacular cloud formations over two of the Great Lakes. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this true-color image (click to enlarge) of the clouds over Lakes Superior and Michigan on January 10. The long rows of parallel white clouds—called "cloud streets"—are most clearly defined and dramatic over Lake Superior (north), but some also exist over Lake Michigan. Aqua was launched from Vandenberg SFB in 2002. Image Credit: NASA

Virgin Orbit Launch Successful

(JAN 13) MOJAVE, CALIFORNIA - Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB), the responsive launch and space solutions company, confirmed it successfully deployed into orbit all 7 customer satellites onboard its LauncherOne rocket during today's Above the Clouds mission.

Virgin Orbit's 747 carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl took off from Mojave Air and Space Port this afternoon at approximately 1:39 PM PST/09:39 PM UTC and flew to a launch site over the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles south of the Channel Islands. After a smooth release from the aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket ignited and propelled itself towards space, ultimately deploying its payload into a precise target orbit approximately 500km above the Earth's surface at 45 degrees inclination. This is the first time that anyone has reached this orbit from the West Coast.

The launch was the company's third successful flight, occurring less than one year from its first mission. Virgin Orbit has now successfully delivered commercial, government, international, and national security satellites to space, including new Above the Clouds customer Spire Global, Inc. (NYSE: SPIR), and first ever repeat customers: the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program and Polish company SatRevolution. This launch was awarded to Virgin Orbit through its subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD's Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of the DoD Space Test Program's (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative.

The satellites launched on the company's latest mission include experiments in space-based communications, space debris detection, and in-space navigation and propulsion, as well as satellites that will serve the global agricultural sector. The launch brings the total number of satellites launched by Virgin Orbit to 26.

Because of the unique air-launch system Virgin Orbit has developed, the Above the Clouds mission was launched in an orbit never before directly accessible from the West Coast of the Americas. Rather than launching from a fixed pad on the ground, Virgin Orbit conducts its launches from under the wing of a modified 747 aircraft, and by flying the aircraft further out over the ocean, the company was able to launch on a trajectory no ground-launch rocket could have achieved. That direct injection into the target orbit saved the satellites onboard this mission months of time and kilograms of fuel they might have otherwise spent correcting their orbit from what a landlocked launch site could provide them.

Virgin Orbit

Boeing Awarded Contract Modification

(DEC 30) The Boeing Co., El Segundo, California, has been awarded a $15,052,531 firm-fixed-price modification (P00131) to previously awarded FA8808-10-C-0001 for Protected Tactical Satellite Communications (PTS) hosted payload. The modification provides for PTS integration and test efforts. Work will be performed in El Segundo, California, and is expected to be completed by March 19, 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $15,052,531 are being obligated at the time of award. The total cumulative face value of the contract is $2,591,652,278. Space Systems Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Los Angeles, California, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

Sulphur Dioxide

Sulphur dioxide from space

Global sulphur dioxide distribution is visible in this graphic (click to enlarge) compiled from NASA satellite data. The AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft collected the data on the daylight side of the earth on December 24. Aqua was launched aboard a Delta II rocket from California's Vandenberg SFB in 2002. Image Credit: JPL/NASA

Ball Aerospace Optics Launched Aboard Space Telescope

(DEC 25) BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- Ball Aerospace is celebrating today's launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) from French Guiana. The Colorado-based company designed and built the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system that will enable Webb to detect light from the first stars and galaxies.

Announced as the Next Generation Space Telescope in 1996, and renamed James Webb Space Telescope in 2002, the space science observatory represents the largest and most complex ever built. Once on orbit, Webb will capture faint light from the very first objects that illuminated the universe after the Big Bang.

To make this possible, Ball Aerospace worked with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Northrop Grumman, the prime industry partner, to innovate the 25 square-meter (~269 square feet) mirror system consisting of 18 beryllium mirror segments working together as one mirror. It will be the largest mirror and the first segmented telescope ever deployed in space, operating at the extremely cold space temperature of -406° F (30K) necessary for infrared imaging of distant stars and galaxies.

Ball also developed the cryogenic actuators mounted on each segment to control individual mirror positioning and curvature radius within one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. To align the mirror segments, Ball also designed the 22 electronic flight control boxes to operate in a deep-freeze space environment to individually control each of the 132 actuators that keep the telescope segments properly aligned on orbit.

To innovate, validate and demonstrate technologies used to develop Webb's pioneering optical system, Ball Aerospace drew on its in-depth experience with space hardware designed for all four of NASA's Great Observatories (Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope).

Ball Aerospace

Falcon 9 Launched

(DEC 18) A Falcon 9 rocket was launched this morning at 04:41 PST (12:41 UTC) from Vandenberg SFB, California. The vehicle carried 52 Starlink internet satellites into orbit.

Brian Webb

Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa from space

This recently released photo shows the south end of Lake Berryessa, an artificial water body in northern California. An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph while passing over the San Francisco Bay Area in July 2021. The swirls in the middle of the lake are sediments stirred up by the flow of the water around the canyon walls. Water levels were low at the time of this photo, when the entire state of California faced serious drought. Image courtesy of NASA

Northrop Grumman Awarded Booster Contract

(DEC 2) PROMONTORY, Utah - Dec. 2, 2021 - NASA awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) a booster production and operations contract valued up to $3.19 billion to support the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket through 2031. The award includes follow-on production and flight sets for Artemis IV through Artemis VIII, as well as production of the Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) boosters for Artemis IX.

The award supports the design, development and testing of the next generation five-segment solid rocket boosters to supplement and replace the eight remaining reusable Space Shuttle Program-era assets. The new BOLE boosters will replace the steel cases used for the shuttle with a weight-saving composite case and upgraded structures, electronic thrust vector control systems and propellant materials to address obsolescence. This improved design additionally provides process simplification, improved interface, and streamlined ground processing at Kennedy Space Center, leading to greater productivity and efficiency.

Artemis II booster production is complete and segments await transportation to Kennedy Space Center upon NASA's request. All ten segments for Artemis III have been cast with propellant, and Artemis IV segments began casting in November. The first composite BOLE booster segment case to be used for development testing completed winding in October.

Northrop Grumman

Team Vandenberg Launches the NASA DART Mission

(NOV 23) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 here today, Nov. 23, at 10:21 p.m. Pacific Time.

Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, was the launch decision authority.

"It takes the entire team for a safe and successful launch," said Long. "I congratulate NASA on achieving the first step in this program's journey on its planetary defense test mission. We are proud to be a part of this team."

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test, the world's first full-scale planetary defense test, into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base. True to its name, DART is a focused mission, proving that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it (called a kinetic impact) at roughly 4 miles per second (6 kilometers per second). Its target, which poses no threat to Earth, is the asteroid moonlet.

Vandenberg SFB

Mars Helicopter

Model of the Ingenuity helicopter

An engineer from AeroVironment shows astronomy enthusiasts a model of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter on November 19. Ingenuity was built at the AeroVironment facility in Simi Valley, Calif. Photo credit: Brian Webb

Tuesday Vandenberg Launch Visibility

(NOV 20) A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a deep space probe is scheduled for launch late this Tuesday evening (November 23) from Vandenberg SFB. More

Near-earth Asteroid Might be a Lost Fragment of the Moon

A team of UArizona-led researchers think that the near-Earth asteroid Kamo`oalewa might actually be a miniature moon

(NOV 11) A near-Earth asteroid named Kamo`oalewa could be a fragment of our moon, according to a new paper published in Nature Communications Earth and Environment by a team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona. More

To Find Life on Other Planets, NASA Rocket Team Looks to the Stars

(NOV 4) A NASA sounding rocket will observe a nearby star to learn how starlight affects the atmospheres of exoplanets - key information in the hunt for life outside our solar system. More

Observatory Awarded Air Force Contract

(OCT 29) New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico, has been awarded a $30,000,000 cost-reimbursement cooperative agreement for Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometry. The contract provides for additional telescope production, the demonstration of fringe tracking, and imagery production of objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit. Work will be performed in Socorro, New Mexico, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2026. Fiscal 2021 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $6,285,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is the contracting activity. There is congressional interest pertaining to this acquisition.

Department of Defense

DART Arrives at Vandenberg SFB

DART spacecraft prepared for shipment to Vandenberg SFB

The DART spacecraft is moved into a specialized shipping container at Johns Hopkins APL for shipment to Vandenberg Space Force Base for launch. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

(OCT 19) Just two days after leaving the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, in a specialized container carefully strapped to the deck of a semi-trailer truck, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft arrived in California — its final stop here on Earth. More

Army Missile Launched from Vandenberg

(OCT 14) DALLAS - Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT) Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) completed its longest flight to date, exceeding maximum threshold, with the U.S. Army yesterday at Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), California. This marks the fifth consecutive successful flight test for the missile.

Firing from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launcher, the PrSM flew an extended range mission over the Pacific Ocean.

The success comes on the heels of two U.S. Army contract awards issued in September for Early Operational Capability (EOC) production and Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) advancing the missile to the next phase of the PrSM program.

The flight is the second of three demonstrations taking place this year as part of the Enhanced Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (ETMRR) phase of the development program. The next flight is scheduled this fall as part of the U.S. Army's Project Convergence 21.

Lockheed Martin

ULA Launches Earth Science Mission

(SEP 27) Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. - A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Landsat 9 mission for NASA lifted off on Sept. 27 at 11:12 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base. To date ULA has launched 145 times with 100 percent mission success.

"Thank you to our mission partners for the tremendous teamwork as we worked through a challenging health environment to launch this significant ability that will continue to enable future discoveries about our planet," said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. "We are proud to empower critical Earth science research through our long-standing NASA partnership."

The Atlas V delivered Landsat 9 into a near-polar, sun synchronous orbit around Earth, continuing the Landsat program's vital role of repeat global observations for monitoring, understanding and managing Earth's natural resources. The addition of Landsat 9 will continue Landsat's irreplaceable record of Earth's land surfaces with high-quality, global land imaging measurements for decades to come.

This was the 88th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the mission marked the first four-burn Centaur mission for ULA on an Atlas V rocket. The first burn placed the Landsat spacecraft into the desired near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit, the second and third firings of the Centaur upper stage served to lower the orbital altitude and slightly change the orbital inclination to release the four CubeSats. A fourth and final burn by the Centaur's RL10C-1 cryogenic main engine executed the deorbit maneuver to dispose of the stage in a safe manner that does not contribute to space debris or cause an uncontrolled re-entry.

The mission launched on an Atlas V 401 configuration rocket that included a 13.7-ft (4-m) Extra Extended Payload Fairing (XEPF). The Atlas booster was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.

This was the 20th mission launched on an Atlas V in partnership with NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP). ULA's next launch, the Lucy mission for NASA, planned for Oct. 16, 2021, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, continues that partnership.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 140 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation. For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).

United Launch Alliance

Vandenberg Celebrates 2000th Launch Monday

(SEP 24) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg is scheduled to launch a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the NASA Launch Program Landsat 9 observatory into a near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit from Space Launch Complex-3 here Monday, Sept. 27, with a launch window opening at 11:11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

Col. Rob Long will be the launch decision authority on this historic 2000th launch from the Western Range here on Vandenberg Space Force Base.

"The 2000th launch gives us the opportunity to celebrate the tens of thousands from Team Vandenberg, past and present, who share a proud heritage beginning with the first launch in 1958 through this 2000th launch," said Long. "Space—and launch—is hard. Our record of success is a testament to longstanding mission excellence."

The unique geographic location of Vandenberg makes this major range and test facility base a safe and ideal setting for confidence test launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, intermediate range ballistic missiles, and for placing satellite payloads into polar orbit.

Join us as we celebrate this Vandenberg Space Force milestone as we make history with our 2000th launch!

The local community can view this launch from the Hawk's Nest on Hwy 1 just a half mile south of Vandenberg Space Force Base's main gate. The Hawk's Nest gates will open at 9:45 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 27.

Vandenberg SFB

Falcon 9 Launched

Falcon 9 rocket exhaust plume

A Falcon 9 rocket produces an exhaust plume as it heads down range following liftoff from Vandenberg SFB on the evening of September 13. David Schlacht recorded the display from Point Migu State Beach, California using a Sony a7R III digital camera.

(SEP 18) A Falcon 9 rocket was launched as planned from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California at 8:55 p.m. PDT during an instantaneous launch window. The vehicle lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4-East (SLC-4E), rose vertically, turned toward the south-southeast, flew roughly parallel to the california coast, and inserted 51 starlink satellites into orbit. The launch was the tenth flight for the rocket's first stage.

Despite bright moonlight, the event was visible to the naked eye over a wide area for several minutes and lasted well into the second stage burn. Moments after liftoff, a brilliant orange flame was visible as the first stage performed a braking maneuver before landing on a barge located downrange.

Brian Webb

Missile Defense Test Completed

(SEP 12) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Ground-based Interceptor missile, an element of the nation's Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, was launched from North Vandenberg today at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time by Space Launch Delta 30 officials, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Northern Command.

Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, was the launch decision authority.

"Today was another milestone in the longstanding partnership between Space Launch Delta 30 and the Missile Defense Agency," said Long. "Once again, the combined team displayed their hallmark professionalism and 'can-do' attitude in making this a successful test."

Vandenberg SFB

Missile Defense Test Scheduled

(SEP 9) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. - A U.S. Missile Defense Agency flight test of a Ground-based Interceptor missile is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 12, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Space Force Base, conducted by Space Launch Delta 30, the Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Northern Command.

Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, is the launch decision authority.

"Team Vandenberg has a long history of collaborating with our Missile Defense Agency partners to ensure safe launch operations for missile defense tests," said Long. "It's an honor for Space Launch Delta 30 to work with our mission partners on this important national security test."

Vandenberg SFB

Firefly Alpha Terminated Mid-Flight

Alpha rocket failure aftermath

The aftermath from the failed maiden flight of an Alpha rocket forms a circular cloud in the southern California sky at dusk on September 2.

(SEP 2) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Space Launch Delta 30 terminated the Firefly Aerospace Inc., Alpha rocket over the Pacific Ocean at 7:01 p.m. Pacific Time after a successful lift off at 6:59 p.m. Pacific Time from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg SFB Sept. 2.

There were no injuries associated with the anomaly.

A team of investigators will convene to determine the cause of the failure.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

Vandenberg SFB

Team Captures Data from Minuteman Launch

(AUG 25) A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) successfully collected data from the recent operational test of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness and readiness of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The LLNL Independent Diagnostic Scoring System (LIDSS) was used to collect the downrange data following the launch. The assets used to collect the data included autonomous rafts, camera boxes and drones.

"This mission was the first time the team remotely commanded the LIDSS assets from across the world back at LLNL," said Steve Jensen, LLNL flight test director. "By all accounts it was very successful, and we anticipate this becoming very much a standard part of operations going forward."

Jensen said he is thankful for the team, which worked hard getting all the assets ready on time to support the mission downrange in the field, as well as at LLNL, to monitor and run the mission assets from Livermore.

"This was a daunting challenge, given that just four months ago we only had four mission-ready drones," he said. "In all, the team flew six drones and all deployed and returned back to the island safely while capturing terminal event data, including an aerial image."

Jensen praised the downrange team that deployed. "This mission would not have been possible without the sacrifice of four individuals who spent six weeks away from home to ensure the mission was a success - with four of those weeks being in quarantine as a result of COVID travel restrictions imposed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands government," he said.

He also gave kudos to the analysis team for quickly supporting the mission in the middle of the night to meet the deliverable of a flash report in four hours.

The LLNL team included Paul Nyholm, Sam Fuller, Jesse Wynn, Kyle Minchokovich, Lorne Stoops, Brad Perfect and Nick Amadeo. The downrange team that deployed consisted of Rob Golden, Torey Jones, Jason Anaya and Alex Maselli.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Stowed for Launch

Encapsulation of LANDSAT-9

The LANDSAT-9 earth observatoiry is stowed inside its rocket fairing for launch at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. LANDSAT-9 is slated for launch from the base on September 16. Photo credit: USSF 30th Space Wing/Chris Okula

Rocketdyne Expands Los Angeles Facility

(AUG 18) LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Aerojet Rocketdyne has finished a major expansion of its Los Angeles facility to support production of new-generation RS-25 main engines for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which will send astronauts to the Moon as early as 2024.

"This expanded facility will serve NASA's human exploration requirements for decades to come," said Eileen P. Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. "We've added state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities and other features to produce large RS-25 engine components more efficiently and economically."

On Aug. 18, Drake and members of her leadership team hosted a ribbon cutting to mark completion of the $59 million expansion, which added 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space to the facility.

The Los Angeles expansion includes renovations to existing buildings, the addition of additive manufacturing (3D printing) capabilities, and new testing and storage facilities. Highlights include:

  • Four new selective laser melting machines for additive manufacturing

  • Nondestructive inspection equipment

  • Roughly 11,000 square feet of additional weld space

  • A new horizontal vacuum furnace for brazing exotic engine materials

Aerojet Rocketdyne's Los Angeles facility is located a few miles away from where the company originally produced some of the iconic propulsion systems for America's space program.

Aerojet Rocketdyne

Minuteman III Launched

(AUG 11) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 12:53 a.m. Pacific Time.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, was the launch decision authority.

"Tonight's success is due to the hard work and dedication of Guardians and Airmen from across Team Vandenberg whose contributions are vital to our nation's security," said Long. "These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent."

Vandenberg SFB

First Sample

Perserverance attempts to collect its first sample of Mars

This image taken by NASA's Perseverance rover on August 6 shows the hole drilled in a Martian rock in preparation for the rover's first attempt to collect a sample. A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

GPS Contract Modified

(AUG 2) Raytheon Intelligence and Space, Aurora, Colorado, has been awarded a $13,515,800 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to the previously awarded contract for the Global Positioning System Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). The contract modification is for an equitable adjustment for COVID-19 impacts to OCX, including late government-furnished equipment impacts and excusable delay overrun costs. The location of performance is Aurora, Colorado. The work is expected to be completed by June 30, 2022. The contract is incrementally funded with Space Force Research and Development funding, and no additional funds are being obligated at the time of award. Total cumulative face value of the contract is $3,758,106,396. Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

Electron Launches Space Force Satellite

(JUL 29) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE - EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners successfully launched a Department of Defense research and development satellite ... More

Breaking Ground

Construction begins for the SOLIS instrument at Big Bear Solar Observatory

Crews pour concrete footings, the first step in the construction of a permanent home for the National Science Foundation's Synoptic Optical Long-term Investigations of the Sun (SOLIS) instrument at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California. SOLIS originally operated in Arizona from 2003 to 2017. Once operational, it will record the Sun's magnetic field strength and direction, collect spectra from the entire disk of the Sun, and take rapid sequences of full-disk Sun images in different wavelengths. Credit: Wenda Cao, Sergey Shumko and Erika Norro, Big Bear Solar Observatory, NSO/AURA/NSF

SpaceX to Launch Europa Mission

(JUL 23) NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for Earth's first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Jupiter's moon Europa.

The Europa Clipper mission will launch in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The total contract award amount for launch services is approximately $178 million.

Europa Clipper will conduct a detailed survey of Europa and use a sophisticated suite of science instruments to investigate whether the icy moon has conditions suitable for life. Key mission objectives are to produce high-resolution images of Europa's surface, determine its composition, look for signs of recent or ongoing geological activity, measure the thickness of the moon's icy shell, search for subsurface lakes, and determine the depth and salinity of Europa's ocean.

NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy will manage the Europa Clipper launch service. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, executes program management of the Europa Clipper mission.

For more information about the Europa Clipper mission, visit:


Vandenberg Contract Awarded

(JUL 16) United Launch Services LLC, Centennial, Colorado, has been awarded a $10,050,485 firm-fixed-price modification (P00010) to contract FA8811-19-C-0002 for Delta IV heavy launch services. The modification is for Space Launch Complex-6 non-routine facility expenses. Work will be performed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and is expected to be completed Sept. 17, 2021. Fiscal 2020 missile procurement fund sin the full amount will be obligated at the time of award. The total cumulative face value of the contract is $1,038,054,046. Space and Missile Systems Center, Lost Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

Coastal Clouds

California from space

A thick layer of marine stratocumulus clouds hug the California coast bringing thick fingers of fog onshore, especially over San Francisco. The finger of fog can be seen hanging over much of San Francisco Bay and travelling as far as 40 miles (64.4 km) inland. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA's Terra satellite acquired this true-color image (click to enlarge) during a daylight pass over the region on July 1. Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

NASA Satellites Aid Vegetation Research at NMSU

(JUL 6) While rangelands and NASA may seem like an unlikely pair, Lara Prihodko, a college associate professor of animal and range sciences at New Mexico State University, is currently working on two projects featuring the collaboration. Prihodko and other researchers from NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences have turned to satellites to learn more about Earth's vegetation. More

Virgin Orbit's Tubular Bells Mission Goes Off Without A Hitch

(JUN 30) MOJAVE, CALIFORNIA - Virgin Orbit confirmed it successfully deployed into orbit all 7 customer satellites onboard its LauncherOne rocket during today's Tubular Bells: Part One mission.

Virgin Orbit's 747 carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl took off from Mojave Air and Space Port this morning at approximately 6:50 A.M. PDT/1:50 PM UTC and flew out to a launch site over the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles south of the Channel Islands. After a smooth release from the aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket ignited and propelled itself towards space, ultimately deploying its payload into a precise target orbit approximately 500km above the Earth's surface.

LauncherOne carried a total of 7 satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for this rideshare mission: four R&D CubeSats for the US Department of Defense, two optical satellites for SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force's first military satellite.

"Two successful launches and two groups of happy customers in 5 months really speaks to our team's abilities. They're making air launch look easy - and I can tell you from experience that it's not," said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. "We can now proudly say that 17 satellites launched by our system are up in space exactly in their target orbits. We're looking forward to growing that number tremendously as we push to ramp up our flight cadence in the coming months."

"What an unforgettable experience to be here in Mojave to watch the Virgin Orbit team complete another perfect mission to space. Everything went exactly to plan and the fact that we dropped the rocket from our 747 at 7:47 AM PDT made it particularly fitting. Perfect timing!" said Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson. "We had customers here from three countries and I congratulate all of them and all of our wonderful team."

Tubular Bells: Part One is named after the first track on Mike Oldfield's 1973 record Tubular Bells, the album that inspired Richard Branson to create Virgin Records and the first ever released by the label.

Virgin Orbit

Early Data

Sentinel-6 sea level data

Six months after liftoff from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., the Sentinel-6 sea level-measuring satellite was poised to make its first data streams available to the public. This map shows sea level measured by the spacecraft from June 5 to 15. Red areas are regions where sea level is higher than normal, and blue areas indicate areas where it's lower than normal. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

AFRL Leaps Forward in NTS-3 Spacecraft Development

(JUN 24) KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) - The Air Force Research Laboratory's Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) satellite navigation program is closer in the development of the spacecraft for its in-space demonstration, thanks to the delivery of its bus that will carry it to space in 2023. More

Rocket Lab to Design Spacecraft for Mars

(JUN 15) Long Beach, California. Rocket Lab, a global leader in dedicated launch and space systems, has been awarded a subcontract by the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (UCBSSL) to design two Photon spacecraft for a scientific mission to Mars.

The Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission, led by Rob Lillis at UCBSSL, is a twin-spacecraft science mission that will orbit two spacecraft around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars' unique hybrid magnetosphere. The mission will leverage its unique dual viewpoint on the Mars environment to explore how the solar wind strips atmosphere away from Mars to better understand how its climate has changed over time.

ESCAPADE is being developed under NASA's Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The mission is led by UCBSSL with spacecraft design provided by Rocket Lab. The two spacecraft are planned for launch in 2024 to Mars ridesharing aboard a NASA-provided commercial launch vehicle.

Following an 11-month interplanetary cruise, the two Photons (named Blue and Gold) will insert themselves into elliptical orbits around Mars and conduct a 1-year primary science mission. ESCAPADE's Photons will use the flight-proven Curie propulsion system to perform Mars orbit insertion and will be equipped with other subsystems that enable planetary science, including star trackers and reaction wheels for precision pointing from Rocket Lab's Sinclair Interplanetary team, as well as ranging transceivers for deep space navigation.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck says: "This is a hugely promising mission that will deliver big science in a small package. Planetary science missions have traditionally costed hundreds of millions of dollars and taken up to a decade to come to fruition. Our Photon spacecraft for ESCAPADE will demonstrate a more cost-effective approach to planetary exploration that will increase the science community's access to our solar system for the better."

ESCAPADE is one of three missions selected in 2019 by NASA's SIMPLEx program to conduct compelling planetary science and provide more opportunities for flight experience to the science community. ESCAPADE will undergo a NASA preliminary design review in June and a confirmation review in July determining whether the mission proceeds to implementation and flight.

Rocket Lab

Dark Side

Jupiter's moon Ganymede

Craters and other features on Jupiter's moon Ganymede are visible in this image taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft on June 7. A low-light camera on the spacecraft recorded the view of the moon's unlit side which was bathed in sunlight reflected by Jupiter. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

Asteroid Hunting Telescope to Continue Development

(JUN 11) NASA has approved the Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) to move to the next phase of mission development after a successful mission review, authorizing the mission to move forward into Preliminary Design (known as Key Decision Point-B). The infrared space telescope is designed to help advance NASA's planetary defense efforts by expediting our ability to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth's orbit, collectively known as near-earth objects, or NEOs.

Following completion of the goal to discover 90 percent of all NEOs larger than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in size in 2010, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155) directed NASA to discover 90% of NEOs larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size. The agency is diligently working to achieve this directive and has currently found approximately 40% of near-Earth asteroids within this size range.

Discovering, characterizing, and tracking potentially hazardous NEOs as early as possible is crucial in ensuring that deflection or other preparations for impact mitigation can be carried out in time. NASA will test one deflection technology - the kinetic impactor - with its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, to be launched later this year. While there are no known impact threats to Earth for the next century, unpredicted impacts by unknown NEOs - such as the 2013 Chelyabinsk event in Russia - still pose a hazard to Earth. Using sensors that operate in the infrared, NEO Surveyor would help planetary scientists discover NEOs more quickly, including ones that could approach Earth during the day from closer to the direction of the Sun - something that is not currently possible using ground-based optical observatories.

NEO Surveyor's approval to move to this next mission milestone brings the telescope one step closer to launch, which is currently scheduled for the first half of 2026. The mission is being developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and managed by NASA's Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, with program oversight by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). NASA established the PDCO in 2016 to manage the agency's ongoing efforts in Planetary Defense.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA Selects 2 Missions to Study 'Lost Habitable' World of Venus

(JUN 2) NASA has selected two new missions to Venus, Earth's nearest planetary neighbor. More

Shining Clouds

High-altitude clouds on Mars

High-altitude clouds of ice crystals move across the martian sky in this Curiosity Mars rover image released on May 28. Navigation cameras on Curoisity's mast recorded the display just after sunset on March 31. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Range Contract Awarded

(MAY 24) Range Generation Next LLC, Sterling, Virginia, has been awarded a $15,566,389 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification (P000343) to contract FA8806-15-C-0001 for a telemetry end-to-end processing system. This modification supports an increase in launch and test range requirements. Work will primarily be performed in Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and Pillar Point, California, and is expected to be completed Jan. 19, 2024. Fiscal 2021 Space Force space procurement funds in the full amount are being obligated at the time of award. Space and Missile Systems Center, Peterson AFB, Colorado, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

Successful Start of Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Follows Record-setting Trial Run

(MAY 17) A five-year quest to map the universe and unravel the mysteries of "dark energy" is beginning officially today, May 17, at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. More

Vandenberg AFB Renamed

(MAY 14) VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg Air Force Base was officially renamed Vandenberg Space Force Base during a U.S. Space Force ceremony held at the base parade grounds, May 14, 2021.

"The establishment of the U.S. Space Force is a significant step forward in the recognition of space as a warfighting domain," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, Space Operations Command commander. "Renaming Air Force installations where space operations is the primary mission more closely reflects the overall mission of the base. Renaming these installations is critical to building a distinct culture and identity for the Space Force."

Maj. Gen. Deanna Burt, Combined Force Space Component Command commander and Space Operations Command deputy commander, was the presiding officer for the renaming ceremony, which also included redesignating the 30th Space Wing as Space Launch Delta 30, a unit of the Space Force aligned under Space Operations Command.

"I am delighted to be with you here today as we take another step in building the structure of our United States Space Force," said Burt. "For decades, Vandenberg Air Force Base has been a focal point - indeed, in many cases, the starting point for space operations across the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force. It has long been known as "Space Country", and that moniker is well-earned."

Vandenberg Space Force Base

Minuteman Launch Aborted

(MAY 5) BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch. The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch. The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met. The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective.

Air Force Global Strike Command

ULA Successfully Launches NROL-82 Mission

(APR 26) Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. - A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle carrying the NROL-82 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on April 26 at 1:47 p.m. PDT. To date ULA has launched 143 times with 100 percent mission success.

"The unmatched power of the Delta IV Heavy again demonstrated its role as the nation's proven heavy lift vehicle precisely delivering this critical NRO asset to its intended orbit," said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. "We are honored to support National Security space and thank our mission partners for their continued trust and teamwork."

The Delta IV Heavy is recognized for delivering high-priority missions for the U.S. Space Force, NRO and NASA. The vehicle also launched NASA's Orion capsule on its first orbital test flight and sent the Parker Solar Probe on its journey to unlock the mysteries of the sun.

This was the 42nd launch of the Delta IV rocket, the 13th in the Heavy configuration and ULA's 31st launch with the NRO.

This Delta IV Heavy was comprised of three common core boosters each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR) RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine, producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage was powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

ULA's next launch is the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 5 mission for the U.S. Space Force, scheduled for May 17, 2021, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

United Launch Alliance

Second Flight

Ingenuity Helicopter

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter hovers above Mars on April 22 during its second flight. The flight lasted 51.9 seconds and added several new challenges including a higher maximum altitude, longer duration, and sideways movement. This image is a frame from video recorded by NASA's Perseverance Mars rover. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

ULA to Launch NROL-82 Mission

Delta IV Heavy heavy-lift performance required for mission

(APR 23) Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. - A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket is in final preparations to launch the NROL-82 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to support national security. The launch is on track for April 26 from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Launch is planned for 1:46 p.m. PDT. The live launch broadcast begins at 1:26 p.m. PDT on April 26 at

"ULA is proud of our long-standing history supporting national security space. The unmatched performance of the Delta IV Heavy is essential for launching some of our nation's most critical national security space missions and we look forward to delivering this critical asset to space," said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. "It takes a cross-functional team to support a national security launch and we would like to thank our mission partners for their continued trust, collaboration and teamwork."

The Delta IV Heavy is the nation's proven heavy lifter, delivering high-priority missions for the U.S. Space Force, NRO and NASA. The vehicle also launched NASA's Orion capsule on its first orbital test flight and sent the Parker Solar Probe on its journey to unlock the mysteries of the Sun.

This Delta IV Heavy is comprised of three common core boosters each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage is powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

This will be the 42nd launch of the Delta IV rocket and the 13th in the Heavy configuration. To date ULA has launched 142 times with 100 percent mission success.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 140 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation. For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).

United Launch Alliance

Spacecraft Production Facility Opens

(APR 15) IRVINE, Calif. -- ICEYE, the global leader in persistent monitoring of Earth from its constellation of radar imaging satellites, today announced that it has opened a new manufacturing facility in Irvine, California. The company's U.S. headquarters will host the production of multiple spacecraft simultaneously and also contain a research and development lab, offices, and a customer engagement space. Importantly, the Irvine location also houses a Mission Operations Center for monitoring and operating U.S. licensed spacecraft.

"With our new production facility in the U.S., we will add significant next-generation capabilities to our space and ground segments," said Jerry Welsh, CEO of ICEYE US. "This will provide us with the most reliable operational foundation, and give us the flexibility and efficiency to best accommodate the requirements of our U.S. government customers."

At any given time, most of the Earth is covered in clouds or darkness. Unlike traditional Earth observation satellites, ICEYE's small radar imaging satellites can form high-resolution images of areas of the Earth in daylight, at night, and through cloud cover. They can 'see' any part of the Earth multiple times a day. ICEYE has successfully launched 10 missions to date and operates the world's largest fleet of commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.


ARRW Flight Test Unsuccessful

(APR 6) EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California -- The Air Force had a setback in demonstrating its progress in hypersonic weapons April 5 when its first booster vehicle flight test encountered an issue on the aircraft and did not launch.

A B-52H Stratofortress took off over the Point Mugu Sea Range intending to fire the first booster test vehicle for the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon program. Instead, the test missile was not able to complete its launch sequence and was safely retained on the aircraft which returned here.

"The ARRW program has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward. While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test," said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Armament Directorate Program Executive Officer.

This would have been the eighth flight test for the ARRW program following seven captive carriage missions. Objectives for the test included demonstrating the safe release of the booster test vehicle from the B-52H as well as assessing booster performance, booster-shroud separation, and simulated glider separation. The 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, both here, were involved in the testing. Since the vehicle was retained, engineers and testers will be able to explore the defect and return the vehicle back to test.

The ARRW program aims to deliver a conventional hypersonic weapons capability to the warfighter in the early 2020s. The weapon system is designed to provide the ability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets. It will also expand precision-strike weapon systems' capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.

U.S. Air Force

Close Inspection

BioSentinel satellite

The BioSentinel satellite is inspected following a test at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. The spacecraft is scheduled for launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a deep space flight that will go past the Moon and into an orbit around the Sun. It's one of 13 CubeSats that will launch aboard Artemis I, the first flight of the Artemis program's Space Launch System. Photo by NASA/Dominic Hart

Vandenberg AFB Preferred Location for Training Unit

(APR 1) WASHINGTON -- Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth selected Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as the preferred location for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, a new intercontinental ballistic missile, Formal Training Unit.

The FTU for the current ICBM is located at Vandenberg AFB.

The GBSD is expected to replace all operational Minuteman III missiles by 2036 and is being designed to maximize the use of existing infrastructure.

"The Minuteman III weapon system has been a bedrock of U.S. national security for more than five decades, but if one looks ahead to the next 50 years, the question of investing in nuclear modernization is as relevant as ever," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. "We are fully committed to the GBSD Program of Record, which will ensure our nation's nuclear force is ready to meet the warfighting needs of today and tomorrow."

GBSD will have increased performance, extended range, enhanced security and improved reliability to provide the United States with an upgraded and broader array of options to maintain a robust, flexible, tailorable and responsive nuclear deterrent.

A final basing decision will be made after a required environmental impact analysis.

U.S. Air Force

ULA Delta IV Heavy to Launch NROL-82

(MAR 26) Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. - The launch of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy NROL-82 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office is scheduled for no earlier than April 26, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

United Launch Alliance

Satellite Breakup Confirmed

(MAR 20) The U.S. Space Force's 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS) yesterday confirmed the breakup of the NOAA 17 environmental satellite. The 18SPCS reported the event occured on 2021 March 10 at 0711 UTC, 16 associated pieces were being tracked, and there was no indication of a collision.

NOAA-17 was launched from Space Launch Complex 4-west at Vandenberg AFB, California on 2002 JUN 24 aboard a Titan II rocket and placed into a nearly-polar orbit. The spacecraft was decommissioned in 2013.

Brian Webb

Persian Gulf

Persian Gulf

The blue waters of the Persian Gulf are colored with swirls of greens and teal in this Aqua spacecraft image released March 10. Clouds of green swirling near the shore appears to be sediment that has been washed into the water from the land. Aqua was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 2002. Image courtesy MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

Serendipitous Juno Detections Shatter Ideas About Origin of Zodiacal Light

(MAR 9) PASADENA, Calif. - Look up to the night sky just before dawn, or after dusk, and you might see a faint column of light extending up from the horizon. That luminous glow is the zodiacal light, or sunlight reflected toward Earth by a cloud of tiny dust particles orbiting the Sun. More

Space Force and SMC Launch Rocket

(MAR 3) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE - EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The U.S. Space Force (USSF) and the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC)'s Launch Enterprise successfully launched an experimental research payload for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) aboard a Terrier-Terrier-Oriole (TTO) Sounding Rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia earlier today.

The successful mission was full of many firsts for SMC's Small Launch and Targets Division. This was the first USSF small launch mission for 2021, the first AFRL dedicated partnership launch from WFF, the first sounding rocket launch under the Sounding Rocket Program-4 contract, and the first USSF sounding rocket launch with Space Vector Corporation.

The TTO vehicle was built by Space Vector, a small business, and Kratos Space and Missile Defense who were responsible for the integration, interface and mission planning for the launch.

"This mission is a great example of the innovation in SMC contracting and using Small Launch contracts to expand our capability and provide support in launching experimental missions," stated Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the Launch Enterprise's Small Launch and Targets Division and Mission Director for today's launch. "Congratulations to the entire government and industry team on successfully executing this important mission, and launching in only 16 months from contract award during the challenging conditions presented this past year."

The U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC's portfolio includes space launch, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, a defense meteorological satellite control network, range systems, space-based infrared systems, and space domain awareness capabilities.

Space and Missile Systems Center

Minuteman III Launched

Minuteman III launch

An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed, Minuteman III missile launches during an operation test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 23.

(FEB 24) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 11:49 p.m. PT.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Col. Joseph Tringe, 30th Space Wing individual mobilization augmentee to the commander, was the launch decision authority.

"This first launch of the year demonstrates our ability to provide safe, secure range operations to our launch partners while maintaining a continuous state of readiness," said Tringe. "The outstanding teamwork of the Airmen and Guardians here at Vandenberg is a true testament to the future of space operations on the Western Range and our ability to defend the United States and our allies."

Vandenberg AFB

Vandenberg Launch Contract Awarded

(FEB 19) General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that it has awarded a contract to Firefly Aerospace Inc. to launch a GA-EMS developed Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite carrying NASA's Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) instrument. The launch vehicle delivering the satellite to space will be Firefly's Alpha rocket and is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2022.

"Firefly's Alpha rocket meets all technical and performance requirements to launch GA-EMS' OTB spacecraft with the MAIA instrument as the primary payload on a rideshare mission," stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. "By leveraging Firefly's inventive launch capabilities with our novel approach to satellite design and development, GA-EMS is able to assure our customers keep pace with the demand to launch missions like MAIA to advance NASA's Earth Science research goals."

MAIA's planned three year on-orbit operation will measure airborne particulate matter in the atmosphere to allow team members to correlate MAIA's measurements with adverse human health issues such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, initially focused on 12 primary target areas around the world. MAIA is a Venture-class mission within NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder Program at the agency's Langley Research Center in Virginia. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA is responsible for the MAIA instrument design, development, and delivery.

Firefly Aerospace

DART Grooming

DART spacecraft grooming

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) team members install the Radial Line Slot Array (RLSA) antenna on the spacecraft at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. DART seeks to test and validate a method to protect Earth in case of an asteroid impact threat by shifting an asteroid's orbit through kinetic impact. DART is scheduled to launch later this year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Virgin Orbit Pens Deal with SatRevolution

(FEB 9) Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, announced today it has signed a new launch agreement with SatRevolution, a NewSpace satellite company headquartered in Wroclaw, Poland. For this contract, Virgin Orbit will launch a pair of small satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (MARTA), later this year onboard its LauncherOne rocket.

Based on the state-of-the-art UniBus 3U CubeSat platform developed by SatRevolution, STORK-4 and MARTA are the first optical satellites to be launched as part of the company's 14-satellite STORK constellation. Once deployed, STORK-4 and MARTA will collect multispectral medium-resolution imagery and data for agricultural and energy customers in the US, in Poland, and abroad. The mission will also feature a reduced timeline integration of the STORK-4 and MARTA satellites as part of a critical first step in demonstrating a responsive launch service. Future LauncherOne missions will be designed to offer a rapid launch capability, with the companies working closely to ensure that quick call-up capabilities are readily available.

The launch agreement builds on an existing relationship between Virgin Orbit and SatRevolution. In 2019, alongside nearly a dozen of the top technical Polish universities, the two companies became founding members of a consortium to develop the world's first dedicated commercial small satellite missions to Mars. The Polish Mission to Mars Consortium seeks to launch best-in-class satellite technology by taking advantage of LauncherOne's Virgin Interplanetary (or VIP) Service, which offers unique flexibility to access greater and more optimal launch windows for journeys to Mars and other interplanetary destinations.

Virgin Orbit

SpaceX Awarded Launch Contract

(FEB 4) NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission. SPHEREx is a planned two-year astrophysics mission to survey the sky in the near-infrared light, which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions involving the birth of the universe, and the subsequent development of galaxies.

It also will search for water and organic molecules - essentials for life as we know it - in regions where stars are born from gas and dust, known as stellar nurseries, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming. Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The total cost for NASA to launch SPHEREx is approximately $98.8 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

The SPHEREx mission currently is targeted to launch as early as June 2024 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.


Blue Canyon Technologies Provides Microsats for NASA Pioneers Missions

The Aspera and Pandora Missions were recently selected by NASA for further concept development

(JAN 27) BOULDER, Colo. - Leading small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies, LLC. ("BCT" or "Blue Canyon") today announced it is providing the microsatellites for NASA's Pioneers Aspera and Pandora missions - small-scale astrophysics missions.

"We are providing high-performance microsats capable of supporting astrophysics missions at a price point never before possible," said George Stafford, CEO of Blue Canyon. "The missions will demonstrate our ability to be a mission-enabler in the areas of exoplanet characterization and the intergalactic medium."

BCT will build a Mercury-class microsat to support the Aspera mission from the University of Arizona, which will examine hot gas in the space between galaxies, otherwise known as the intergalactic medium. While the intergalactic medium is a major component of the universe, it remains poorly measured, which Aspera aims to address.

BCT also provided a Venus-class Microsat - part of the X-SAT product line to support Pandora, a mission from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center. This small satellite will study 20 stars and their 39 exoplanets in visible and infrared light, with the mission to disentangle the signals from stars and planetary atmospheres. Understanding how starlight changes can affect measurements of exoplanets is an outstanding problem in the search for habitable planets beyond the solar system.

Blue Canyon Technologies

Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract

(JAN 22) Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Redondo Beach, California, is being awarded a firm-fixed-price prototype award with a total value of $155,030,206. This prototype award was competitively solicited among awardees of the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor Phase IIA effort, which was competitively awarded. Four proposals were received. Under this award, the performer will provide the Missile Defense Agency's Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor program with an on-orbit prototype demonstration, culminating with launch and early orbit testing. The work will be performed in Redondo Beach, California, with an estimated completion date of July 22, 2023. Missile Defense Agency, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, is the contracting activity.

Department of Defense

Northrop Grumman Tests New Rocket Motor

Rocket motor test

Northrop Grumman conducted a validation test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor on Jan. 21 at its Promontory, Utah, facility. The GEM 63XL will support the United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle. Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman

(JAN 21) PROMONTORY, Utah - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) conducted a validation ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) today in Promontory. This variation of the company's GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

"This new motor optimizes our best-in-class technologies and leverages flight-proven solid rocket propulsion designs to provide our customers with the most reliable product," said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. "Evolving the original GEM 63 design utilizes our decades of GEM strap-on booster expertise while enhancing capabilities for heavy-lift missions."

During today's static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to validate the performance capability of the motor design. Additionally, this firing verified the motor's internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a hot-conditioned environment.

Northrop Grumman

Virgin Orbit Aces Second Launch Demo and Deploys NASA Payloads

(JAN 17) Mojave, California - Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, confirmed that its LauncherOne rocket reached space during the company's second launch demonstration today, successfully deploying 10 payloads for NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP). More


Cloud vortices

The towering peaks of Fogo, Santa Antão, and São Nicolau of Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) disturb passing air masses and clouds producing trails called von Kármán vortex streets. The distinctive pattern can occur when a fluid passes a tall, isolated, stationary object. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra spacecraft captured this image of the swirling trails of clouds on December 20. Terra was launched from California's Vandenberg AFB in 1999. Image courtesy of NASA

A New NASA Space Telescope, SPHEREx, Is Moving Ahead

The observatory will map the entire sky to study the rapid expansion of the universe after the big bang, the composition of young planetary systems, and the history of galaxies.

(JAN 5) NASA's upcoming space telescope, the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer, or SPHEREx, is one step closer to launch. More

Past News

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