Wednesday, December 23, 2020

FIRST UP | SDA reevaluating proposals for missile tracking satellites • SLS upper stage passes CDR • Raytheon completes purchase of Blue Canyon
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A SpaceNews daily newsletter | Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Top Stories


The Space Development Agency is reevaluating proposals for missile tracking satellites following a series of protests. The agency said Tuesday it is "expeditiously implementing" a corrective action plan for the Tracking Tranche 0 competition after Airbus and Raytheon protested awards made in October to L3Harris and SpaceX. SDA said it would reevaluate those proposals in response to the protests, but Raytheon has since filed two additional protests challenging that plan. It's not clear how the protests will affect the schedule for the program, which had a goal of launching the satellites in late 2022. [SpaceNews]

With the fiscal year 2021 omnibus spending bill, the Space Force has its first dedicated budget. The bill includes $15.2 billion for Space Force operations and maintenance, procurement as well as research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E). Funding for Space Force military and civilian personnel remains in the Air Force budget. Compared to the Pentagon's budget request, Congress slightly reduced Space Force procurement from $2.4 billion to $2.3 billion but increased RDT&E from $10.3 billion to $10.5 billion. [SpaceNews]

Raytheon has completed its acquisition of smallsat manufacturer Blue Canyon Technologies. Boulder, Colorado-based Blue Canyon will now be part of Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a business unit of Raytheon Technologies based in Arlington, Virginia. Raytheon announced the acquisition in November, expected it to close by early 2021. Blue Canyon has a commercial satellite business but has been growing its defense sales, with more than 90 satellites in production for U.S. government agencies. [SpaceNews]

An upgraded upper stage for the Space Launch System has passed a key review. Boeing said this week that the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) completed its critical design review with NASA, allowing the company to start producing hardware. The EUS will be used on the Block 1B version of SLS, increasing its payload performance. The first SLS Block 1B launch is not likely before the mid-2020s. The omnibus spending bill passed this week directs NASA to spend at least $400 million on EUS development in 2021, even though the agency's budget proposal sought to defer final design work so that NASA could focus on completing the Block 1 version of SLS. [SpaceNews]

A Soyuz rocket is on schedule to launch Monday from French Guiana. Arianespace gave it approval to roll out the Soyuz-2 rocket to the pad Wednesday ahead of a launch scheduled for 11:42 a.m. Eastern time Monday. The Soyuz will place into orbit CSO-2, a French military reconnaissance satellite. [TASS]
 

Other News


A European Space Agency initiative is working to improve the safe disposal of satellites, one component at a time. The ESA Clean Space initiative was launched in 2012 to consider the environmental impact of the agency's missions across their entire life cycle, with a focus on developing satellite components that can safely break up on reentry. That has included lab testing of satellite components and even a complete cubesat, placing them in a plasma wind chamber to simulate reentry. In addition to promoting space debris mitigation, the ESA Clean Space initiative is also exploring green satellite design, in-orbit servicing and active debris removal solutions. [SpaceNews]

Astroscale has shipped a debris removal technology demonstration satellite for launch next year. The End-of-Life Services by Astroscale demonstration (ELSA-d) satellite was shipped from the company's Tokyo headquarters to the Baikonur Cosmodrome for launch in March. Astroscale will use ELSA-d to test active debris removal technologies that the company plans to offer commercially. [Astroscale]

Axiom Space will build a new headquarters and production facility for its commercial space station at Spaceport Houston. Axiom announced Tuesday it reached an agreement with the Houston Airport System to build a 14-acre campus at the spaceport, also known as Ellington Airport. That will serve as the company's headquarters as well as where it produces components of its planned commercial space station and trains people who will fly there. Terms of the deal, including any financial support from the city, are still being worked out, but construction could begin in 2021 and the headquarters opened in 2023. [Houston Chronicle]

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, is not happy about a U.S. decision to effectively block exports of sensitive technologies to Russian companies. The Commerce Department said Monday it was placing 43 Russia companies, along with 58 Chinese ones, on a list of "military end users," requiring U.S. companies to get an export license before shipping technologies to them. Among the companies listed is Progress Rocket Space Center, which produces the Soyuz rocket. Rogozin criticized the move, sugesting it could threaten the ability of NASA to launch any astronauts on Soyuz vehicles in the future. [Ars Technica]

A former NASA deputy administrator will be the next director of the MIT Media Lab. The university said Tuesday it selected Dava Newman to be the next director of the center, effective in July. Newman served as NASA deputy administrator from 2015 to 2017, taking leave from her post as a professor in MIT's aeronautics and astronautics department. The Media Lab works on a wide range of projects, including some related to space, but has been mired in controversy because its former director had close ties with, and accepted donations from, Jeffrey Epstein. [Boston Globe]


Note: FIRST UP will not publish Thursday and Friday because of the Christmas holidays. We will be back on Monday.

Running Out of Things to Say


"I love him like a brother. We're very, very close. But still, it's one other person for six months."

– Bill McArthur, a former NASA astronaut who spent six months on the International Space Station with only one other person, Russian cosmonaut, Valeri Tokarev, on why he enjoyed using the ham radio on the station to talk to people on Earth. [Los Angeles Times]
 

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