Air Force sets up prize for space visualization

Space object visualization
The VQ-Prize aims to boost the development of new visualization tools for space situational awareness. (Air Force Space Command via YouTube)

The U.S. Air Force is looking for a few good apps to visualize satellites and other objects in Earth orbit — and it’s willing to pay $100,000 in prizes for them.

That’s the bottom line for the Air Force Visionary Q-Prize Competition, or VQ-Prize, which runs through Jan. 15. The tech challenge is aimed at encouraging non-traditional industry partners to develop visualization tools to enhance space situational awareness for the Pentagon’s space operators.

“The need for timely and accurate object tracking is paramount to the defense of space, and this competition will help augment existing capabilities with visualization tools that enable operators to intuitively absorb and quickly navigate massive amounts of space object data,” Brig. Gen. William Liquori, the Air Force Space Command’s director of strategic requirements, architectures and analysis, said in a news release.

The software tools can include flat-screen user interfaces as well as virtual-reality and augmented-reality solutions. Contestants can include universities, individuals and small businesses. No background in space applications is required.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Air Force backs three new kinds of rockets

Jeff Bezos and New Glenn
Jeff Bezos shows off the concept for the New Glenn orbital rocket during a Florida news conference in 2015. (Blue Origin Photo)

The U.S. Air Force says Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance have won its go-ahead for the development of new rockets that could be used for national security launches — a boost that could eventually add up to billions of dollars.

Blue Origin, the Kent, Wash.-based space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, was awarded a launch service agreement for its New Glenn rocket, which is due to be launched from Florida starting in 2021. The agreement provides for as much as $500 million through 2024, but Blue Origin is expected to contribute to a cost-sharing arrangement.

Through its recently acquired Orbital ATK subsidiary, Northrop Grumman won a $791.6 million agreement with similar terms for its OmegA launch system. ULA, meanwhile, won a $967 million agreement for its Vulcan Centaur rocket. The Vulcan is currently set for first launch in 2020, with two Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engines powering its first-stage booster. OmegA is to enter service in 2021.

Each of the companies will be getting $109 million in funds from fiscal year 2018.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


High-flying management tips from Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at the 2018 Air, Space and Cyber Conference. (DVIDS / DOD)

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spoke today at the Air Force Association’s 2018 Air, Space and Cyber Conference, his head wasn’t just up in the clouds.

To be sure, he devoted a lot of attention to his Blue Origin space venture and what it could offer for U.S. space dominance. But Bezos also talked about two-way vs. one-way doors in decision making; experimentation vs. operational excellence, and other strategies from Amazon’s management playbook. There were even references to Amazon’s HQ2 search, and the value of putting square pegs in round holes.

Check out the transcript of Bezos’ 50-minute talk with retired Gen. Larry Spencer at the conference in National Harbor, Md.


Jeff Bezos sells Air Force on rockets and the cloud

Jeff Bezos and Larry Spencer
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, chats with retired Air Force Gen. Larry Spencer at the Air Force Association’s annual conference at National Harbor, Md.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos made a subtle sales pitch for Amazon Web Services as well as the New Glenn rockets being built by his Blue Origin space venture today during a wide-ranging fireside chat at the Air Force Association’s annual conference.

But he stayed mum when it came to the first question asked by his partner on stage, retired Air Force Gen. Larry Spencer: Where will Amazon put its second headquarters, better known as HQ2?

“We’ll make a decision before the end of the year,” Bezos said good-naturedly at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Md. “That’s all I can say on that topic. We’re excited to make that decision.”

The world’s richest person was far more voluble about his philosophy on management, and how that applies to the things that the Air Force cares about. Speaking to an audience flush with military uniforms, Bezos said it’s critical for the United States to maintain its dominance in the space domain.

Get the full story on GeekWire.