Categories
GeekWire

SpaceX sticks with lawsuit over launch competition

SpaceX says it will keep pursuing its lawsuit against the federal government as well as its rivals in the launch industry, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, even though it’s been cleared for billions of dollars in contracts for national security space missions.

Both sides in the long-running dispute laid out their positions in a notice filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Aug. 14, a week after the U.S. Space Force announced that United Launch Alliance and SpaceX were the winners in a competition for future launches.

Leading up to that decision, the Air Force provided hundreds of millions of dollars in development funding for ULA as well as Blue Origin and Orbital Sciences Corp. (now part of Northrop Grumman). SpaceX was left out but protested the awards.

In this month’s filing, SpaceX said the funding gave ULA an “unwarranted advantage” and called for the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center to “rectify” its errors, presumably by providing more funding for SpaceX.

Lawyers for the federal government and ULA said the competition for development funding was decided fairly. They said no rectification was warranted, especially considering that SpaceX proposed its Starship super-rocket for development funding but ended up offering a different launch vehicle  — a modified Falcon Heavy rocket — for the Space Force’s future heavy-lift launches.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

ULA and SpaceX win shares of Space Force launches

The U.S. Space Force designated United Launch Alliance and SpaceX as the winners of a multibillion-dollar competition for national security launches over a five-year period, passing up a proposal from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture in the process.

Northrop Grumman and its OmegA rocket also lost out in the Phase II competition for the National Security Space Launch program.

ULA will receive a 60% share of the launch manifest for contracts awarded in the 2020-2024 time frame, with the first missions launching in fiscal 2022, said William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

SpaceX will receive the other 40%.

The competition extended through the creation of the U.S. Space Force, whose Space and Missile Systems Center will be in charge of executing the launches in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office.

The five-year Phase II program provides for fixed-price but indefinite-delivery contracts, which means there isn’t a specified total payout. But Roper said it’d be reasonable to estimate that somewhere around 32 to 34 launches would be covered, which would translate to billions of dollars in business.

Three launches were assigned today: ULA is scheduled to launch two missions known as USSF-51 and USSF-106 for the Space Force in 2022, while SpaceX has been assigned USSF-67 in mid-2022.

ULA’s two contracts amount to $337 million, and SpaceX’s contract is worth $316 million. Roper said details about the payloads are classified.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

NASA astronauts splash down in SpaceX Dragon capsule

The first mission to send NASA astronauts into orbit on a commercially owned spaceship came back down to Earth today with the splashdown of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule in the Gulf of Mexico.

“On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to planet Earth, and thanks for flying SpaceX,” Mike Heiman, a lead member of SpaceX’s operations team, told astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

The splashdown closed out a 64-day mission to the International Space Station, aimed at testing the first SpaceX Dragon to carry crew. The reusable spacecraft, which put 27.1 million miles on its orbital odometer, was dubbed Endeavour as a tribute to earlier spaceships.

In May, Endeavour’s launch atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket made history, and today’s return to Earth did as well: It was the first time since 1975 that a crewed NASA spacecraft returned to Earth at sea, and the first-ever space landing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The splashdown marked the completion of the first mission to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil since NASA’s final space shuttle flight in 2011.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Astronauts dodge hurricane for Dragon homecoming

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule pulled away from the International Space Station today to begin the homeward flight for NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, even as Hurricane Isaias headed for Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Fortunately, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is heading for waters off Florida’s other coast.

Dragon Endeavour undocked from the station at 7:35 p.m. ET (4:35 p.m. PT), on track for a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Fla., at 2:48 p.m. ET (11:48 a.m. PT) Sunday. The alternate landing site is closer to Panama City, Fla.

Both sites should be far away from Isaias’ expected track along the United States’ Atlantic seaboard, and the timetable could be adjusted if the weather forecast changes. NASA and SpaceX had made plans for seven potential splashdown targets, but due to Isaias’ strength, NASA concentrated on the westernmost sites.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

SpaceX launches GPS III satellite for Space Force

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the third in a series of next-generation GPS III satellites into orbit today, marking another step forward for America’s satellite-based navigation system and the Space Force that manages it.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

LeoStella delivers BlackSky Earth-viewing satellites

Tukwila, Wash.-based LeoStella cast a spotlight today on the delivery of its first two built-from-scratch satellites for the BlackSky Earth-watching constellation ⁠— with their launch on a SpaceX rocket coming up soon.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Spaceflight signs rideshare launch deal with SpaceX

SpaceX SSO-A launch
One of Spaceflight Industries’ most notable projects was the launch of 64 satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December 2018. (SpaceX Photo)

Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. says it’s signed an agreement to secure spots for secondary payloads on several of SpaceX’s rockets due for launch through the end of 2021.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

SpaceX sends Starlink and Planet satellites to orbit

SpaceX today launched dozens more of its Starlink broadband internet satellites, plus three piggyback satellites for Planet — marking the first of the company’s in-house rideshare deliveries to orbit.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

SpaceX software team talks up Starlink satellites

Starlink satellite
An artist’s conception shows the deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. (SpaceX Illustration)

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation is still deep into testing mode, but it’s already generating 5 trillion bytes of data on a daily basis and getting software updates on a weekly basis.

Those are a couple of the nuggets coming from a weekend Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session featuring SpaceX’s software team.

The main focus of the online chat was SpaceX’s successful mission sending NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon capsule — but one of the team members, Matt Monson, has moved on from Dragon to take charge of Starlink software development.

Although SpaceX’s HQ is in Hawthorne, Calif., most of the work relating to the Starlink satellites is being done at the company’s facilities in Redmond, Wash.

SpaceX tends to play its satellite cards close to the vest, in part because the process of building a satellite system is “highly proprietary” — as one of the company’s vice presidents, Patricia Cooper, said in a 2016 filing with the Federal Communications Commission. For that reason, any nuggets about Starlink’s workings are avidly sought by SpaceX’s fans as well as the occasional inquiring journalist.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

SpaceX launches eighth batch of Starlink satellites

Less than a week after sending two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, SpaceX sent 60 more of its Starlink broadband internet satellites into low Earth orbit tonight, boosting the constellation to 480 satellites.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.