Seattle-based BlackSky says the first two Earth-imaging satellites in its Global constellation are up and running, with the ability to capture 1-meter-resolution views of the same spot on the planet on a frequent basis.
The company provided a demonstration of the high-revisit capability this week at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs — and said it expected to make imagery from the Global constellation commercially available this spring.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For years, there’s been a big question surrounding the next-generation BE-4 rocket engine that’s being built by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture: Will it be good enough for United Launch Alliance, a crucial prospective customer?
Now Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith says the BE-4 has passed all of the technical tests required for ULA to sign onto a production contract.
“We’ve met the technical and performance requirements that they’re looking for,” Smith told GeekWire today during a one-on-one interview at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. “And so we’re just working through how do we actually get to a production deal. We’re working through terms and conditions, termination liability, all of the things you’d want within a contractual structure.”
Smith said there’s been good interaction with ULA on the technical side of the BE-4 test-firing process. “At this point, we think it’s just, how do we get to the commercial production deal?” he said.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Almost 15 years after a $10 million competition gave a boost to private-sector spaceflight, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is kicking off another launch contest with a $10 million grand prize.
The DARPA Launch Challenge — officially unveiled here today at the 34th Space Symposium — won’t send people to the edge of space, as the Ansari X Prize did in 2004. But it will introduce some new twists for the launch industry.
Contest rules call for teams to be given the full details about where and when they’ll launch, what kind of payload they’ll launch, plus what kind of orbit the payload should be launched into, only a couple of weeks in advance. And that’s just half the job. Teams will be required to execute another launch, from a different site, no more than a couple of weeks later.
The precise time frames for giving advance notice are still under discussion, but “I would measure the time scale in days,” Todd Master, program manager for the challenge at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told reporters today.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sierra Nevada Corp. is showing off a prototype of its Dream Chaser space plane, but its focus is quickly shifting to building the real thing to send to orbit.
And as if that’s not enough, there’s an orbital power plant and space habitat to work on as well.
SNC executives provided what they promised would be a series of status reports today here at the 34th Space Symposium, in front of the engineering test vehicle for the Dream Chaser program.
The 30-foot-long, stubby-winged plane was built for atmospheric tests, to check the aerodynamics and flight control systems for an autonomous mini-space shuttle that will be capable of ferrying cargo to and from the International Space Station starting in 2020.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — NASA should rethink its approach to the risks of spaceflight as it prepares for a new wave of exploration, the space agency’s outgoing chief says.
“Protecting against risk and being safe are not the same thing,” Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot told a standing-room crowd here today at the 34th Space Symposium. “Risk is just simply a calculation of likelihood and consequence.”
Lightfoot said he’s worried that excessive risk aversion could hobble NASA as it prepares to build an outpost in lunar orbit and blaze a trail to Mars.
“Would we have ever launched Apollo in the environment we’re in today?” he said. “Would Buzz and Neil have been able to go to the moon in the risk posture we live in today? Would we have launched the first shuttle with a crew?”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross today pledged to make outer space more business-friendly as part of his drive to turn his department into the “one-stop shop for space commerce.”
“This is a perfect example of how commercial activity in space is outpacing government regulation,” he said. “No more.”
Ross said giving the space industry freer rein will become more important as commercial space ventures proliferate. Commercial space is on track to become a trillion-dollar industry “sooner than most people realize,” he said.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Orbital ATK’s entrant in the competition for national security launches has a new name: OmegA.
The project also has a new partner: Aerojet Rocketdyne, which will provide its RL10C rocket engine for OmegA’s upper stage.
Orbital ATK’s update on the rocket formerly known as the Next Generation Launch System came today at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
OmegA is designed to take on intermediate- to heavy-class launches by the Defense Department, civil government and commercial customers. It’s being developed jointly with the U.S. Air Force as an option for future national security launches under the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch space company says it’s on track to conduct the first test flight of its mammoth airplane this summer, and use it to send rockets into orbit as early as 2020.
The status check came today during a background briefing here at the 34th Space Symposium, conducted under background-only conditions that precluded quoting sources by name.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Trump administration is getting set to sign off on a new set of procedures for managing space traffic and minimizing space junk, Vice President Mike Pence said today.
During an opening address to the 34th Space Symposium here, Pence talked up efforts to boost human spaceflight, set a course for the moon and Mars, and trim back regulations on the space industry.
“Under President Donald Trump, America is leading in space once again,” said Pence, who chairs the White House’s National Space Council.
Pence called on the Senate to confirm Trump’s choice for NASA administrator, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., whose nomination has been stalled for months. He also announced that Jim Ellis, former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, would head the space council’s Users Advisory Group.
But it was Pence’s comments on a new space traffic management system that drew the most attention.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A year after Blue Origin put its New Shepard rocket booster on public display for the first time, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture has brought its BE-4 rocket engine here for one of the nation’s premier space conferences.