SN Military Space | Air Force close to picking host for Space Command • Lockheed hopeful Aerojet deal will be approved but it’s no slam dunk
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Tuesday, December 22, 2020


Today's briefing

  • Air Force close to picking host for U.S. Space Command 
  • Lockheed Martin hopeful Aerojet deal will be approved
  • Space Force troops named guardians of the high frontier

Four Midwestern universities have joined forces to lure U.S. Space Command headquarters to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reported Monday.

Offutt is one of six bases competing to host U.S. Space Command. The other five candidates are Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Patrick Space Force Base in Florida, Port San Antonio in Texas, Redstone Army Airfield in Alabama and the incumbent Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. 

They all want it bad. A lobbying battle began as soon as the Air Force revealed the shortlist of locations on Nov. 19. Sources told SpaceNews that Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett is expected to announce the preferred location in January before her time in office is up. A team of Air Force officials during the past month has conducted in-person and virtual meetings with representatives from each locale.

"We're excited for the work that the Air Force is doing for us in that basing decision," Chief of Staff of U.S. Space Command Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard said Monday during a Mitchell Institute virtual event.

No matter what location is selected, Peterson Air Force Base will remain the headquarters of U.S. Space Command for the next six years. That is how long the Air Force estimates it will take to complete an environmental review and build new facilities.

Leonard said access to infrastructure that supports military activities and proximity to areas where there is a high concentration of skilled workers are important factors in the selection. 

  • "First and foremost, we're looking for a place where we can have and grow incredibly smart joint space warfighters," he said. "Having a location that not only has that talent available, but also that can house and feed and take care of that talent is really important to us."

  • The projected size of the headquarters is 1,397 people, 60% of whom will be civilians. Military personnel will be a mix of service members from all branches of the armed services. Today the command's headquarters has 597 people, Leonard said. 

A key goal for U.S. Space Command is to get the word out on what it does and how it contributes to national security, he said. "We need to establish credibility and familiarity."

How will the Biden administration handle aerospace and defense industry mergers?

That is the question at hand following Sunday's news that Lockheed Martin plans to acquire rocket and missile propulsion supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne. 

Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet told analysts on Monday he believes this transaction could be handled like the 2017 acquisition of Orbital ATK by Northrop Grumman, which U.S. government regulators approved in 2018.

That combination gave Northrop a commanding position in large solid rocket motors. By acquiring Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed would dominate the hypersonic and tactical missile engines market. Under the terms of the Northrop-Orbital deal, the company had to agree to supply motors to its competitors. Taiclet said Lockheed also would commit to providing engines to competitors. 

Although there are similarities between the two deals, the regulatory review will be done by a different administration whose views on industry consolidation are still unknown. "We have moderate confidence that this deal will be completed, pending better visibility on who is appointed and confirmed at DoD by the Biden administration," said aerospace industry analyst Byron Callan, of Capital Alpha Partners.

The members of the U.S. Space Force finally have a name: Guardians. Vice President Mike Pence revealed the name Friday at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The event was  for the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Space Force, which was established Dec. 20, 2019. "Henceforth the men and women of the U.S. Space Force will be known as guardians," said Pence.

SpaceNews op-ed last January floated Guardians as an ideal name given Space Force's role, but ultimately settled on Spacer as a good compromise short of changing the name of the nation's newest military branch to Space Guard. 

Photo Credit:  @Mike_Pence/Twitter


SpaceX on Saturday completed its 26th and final launch of 2020. A Falcon 9 rocket launched the NROL-108 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center. The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone 1, marking the company's 70th successful recovery of a first-stage booster.

United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan Centaur rocket will be ready to launch its first mission — Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander — in late 2021, CEO Tory Bruno told reporters last week. The timeline for Vulcan's maiden flight has slipped over the past two years because ULA does not yet have flight-qualified BE-4 main engines for Vulcan's first stage. Engine manufacturer Blue Origin is expected to deliver flight engines this summer. 

AGI is spinning off its Commercial Space Operations Center subsidiary as an independent company: Comspoc Corp. AGI will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ansys. Since it was established in 2014, Comspoc has developed products and services for satellite operators. In addition, Comspoc tracks objects in orbit and analyze data to provide government and commercial satellite operators with space domain and safety of flight information.

The Pentagon announced on Friday that the chief of the U.S. Space Force Gen. John Raymond is officially a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The members of the Joint Chiefs (from left to right) are Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., Chief of the National Guard Bureau Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond. Credit: DoD

SN Military.Space is published Tuesdays by SpaceNews Staff Writer Sandra Erwin and Editor-in-Chief Brian Berger.

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