Air Force Awards AFSPC-52 Launch Services Contract to SpaceX
(JUN 21) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -- The Air Force has announced the award of an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch service contract. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) has been awarded a $130 million firm-fixed price contract for launch services to deliver Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-52 satellite to the intended orbit. The contract provides the Government with a total launch solution for this mission, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations. This mission is planned to be launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
This is the fifth competitive procurement under the current Phase 1A strategy. These launch service contract awards strike a balance between meeting operational needs and lowering launch costs through reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions.
“The competitive award of this EELV launch service contract directly supports Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space,” said Lt Gen John F. Thompson, Air Force program executive officer for Space and SMC commander.
AFSPC-52 is a classified mission projected to launch in late Fiscal Year 2020.
The Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.
Los Angeles Air Force Base
Martian Dust Storm
(JUN 17) Earth-based observers may be able to see an ogoing martian dust storm without a telescope. If the
storm grows and intensifies, naked-eye observers may see the normally orange-red Mars take on a dusky
yellow color. To find Mars, go outside just before dawn and look towards the south. The planet should be
shining brightly at magnitude -1.7 approximately 35 degrees above the horizon.
The southern tip of South America, also known as Patagonia, displays a mix of mountains and plains in this true-color NASA Aqua satellite image acquired on June 3. Aqua was launched from California’s Vandenberg AFB in 2002. Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars
(JUN 7) PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. More
Orbital ATK to Build JPSS Satellites
(MAY 25) WASHINGTON, D.C. - NASA has exercised options under the Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition III (Rapid III) contractfor two additional Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft to be built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, will build NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System JPSS-3 and -4. The contract value is $460 millionand the period of performance will extend through 2026. The work will be performed at Orbital ATK’s facility in Gilbert, Arizona.
Orbital, which currently is developing the JPSS-2 spacecraft, will design, develop, fabricate, integrate, test and provide post-delivery support for the third and fourth spacecraft in the series.
JPSS satellites collect global, multi-spectral radiometry and other specialized meteorological, oceanographic data via remote sensing of land, sea and atmospheric properties. These data support NOAA’s mission for continuous observation of Earth’s environment to understand and predict changes in weather, climate, oceans and coasts.
NOAA funds the JPSS missions and NASA is the acquisition agent for the flight systems, launch services and components of the ground system.
Falcon 9 Launched
(MAY 22) This afternoon's scheduled Falcon 9 rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB took place as planned at 12:47 PDT.
Thus far no launch observations have been received. However, one person reported the launch made his building shake.
New England and Canada
Although spring is well under way, snow covers much of Quebec in this recent image of New England and eastern Canada.
NASA's Aqua satellite recorded the scene during a pass over the region on May 13. Aqua was launched aboard a Delta II
rocket from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. in 2002. Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
Tuesday Vandenberg Launch
(MAY 20) A Falcon 9 rocket carrying several satellites is scheduled for launch from south Vandenberg AFB on Tuesday afternoon at 12:47:58 PDT.
Following lift-off, the rocket will climb vertically for several seconds before it begins a gradual turn and heads south. If the launch is successful, the Falcon 9 will place several Iridium NEXT communications satellites and two GRACE Follow-on scientific satellites into orbit.
Weather permitting, the bright orange flame from the rocket's first stage could be visible to the unaided eye as far away as Big Sur, Bakersfield, and Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
People in very quiet locations in coastal Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and the western Santa Monica mountains may hear a distant, muffled rumble from the launch sometime between T+4 and T+12 minutes.
Some launch enthusiasts may be planning gather to watch the event from west of Lompoc near highway 246 (west Ocean Avenue) and Union Sugar Road.
However, if you intend to view the launch near the coast, be advised there is a real possibility the event will be obscured by low clouds or fog.
For the best view in outlying areas, get above the haze or marine layer and find a place with an unobstructed horizon towards the launch site and Channel Islands.
Regardless of where you plan to go to view the launch, allow yourself enough time to get there well before liftoff. After you arrive, be aware of your surroundings and possible hazards such as traffic.
For launch status and countdown information, go to:
For information on viewing Vandenberg rocket and missile launches, go to:
The Internet countdown feed may be delayed by several seconds. Rather than relying on the feed for launch cueing, use a GPS receiver or another source to obtain the exact time. You can also set your watch to the exact time from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (www.time.gov).
Minuteman III Launched
(MAY 14) Media sources report this morning's scheduled Minuteman III missile launch
from Vandenberg AFB took place at 01:23 PDT.
Thus far no launch observations have been received.
Minuteman Launch Scheduled
(MAY 13) According to Central Coast news outlets, a Minuteman III missile is scheduled
for launch from Vandenberg AFB on the morning May 14 during a 01:21 to 07:21 launch window.
Following liftoff, the vehicle will head west and send a mock warhead on a ballistic (non-orbital)
trajectory to an impact area in the central Pacific.
If the sky is clear, the event could be visible as far away as southern Oregon, western
Arizona, and northern Baja California.
ULA Launches West Coast’s First Planetary Mission
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars InSight mission lifts off from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. on May 5. United Launch Alliance photo
(MAY 5) A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s InSight Mars lander lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 on May 5 at 4:05 a.m. PDT . InSight is the first mission launched to another planet from the West Coast, which requires more energy than an East Coast launch that takes advantage of the Earth’s rotation. The West Coast Mars launch was made possible by the performance of the Atlas V and an optimized trajectory design to achieve the very exact hyperbolic injection required to deliver the spacecraft to Mars.
In addition to InSight, the mission included two CubeSats which launched from dispensers mounted on the aft bulkhead carrier on the Atlas V Centaur second stage.
The Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, are the first to travel interplanetary.
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter Payload Fairing (PLF). The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.
This is the 78th launch of the Atlas V rocket, ULA’s fifth launch in 2018 and the 128th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.
United Launch Alliance
Minuteman III Launched
(APR 25) According to media reports, this morning's scheduled launch of a Minuteman III
took place at 05:26 PDT.
Few people apparently saw the event or the sunlit launch aftermath at dawn due to
widespread coastal low clouds and fog.
Raytheon Builds Small Satellites for DHS
Satellites to aid search and rescue in remote areas
(APR 18) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) has built two small, Polar Scout satellites for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with Millennium Engineering and Integration. The satellites have flexible radio frequency receivers to help search and rescue teams locate emergency beacons in remote areas, such as the Arctic.
Raytheon assembled the small satellites at the company's advanced missile production facility in Tucson, Arizona. The smallsats are part of a project led by the U.S. Air Force Operationally Responsive Space program to show how they can be built efficiently and cost effectively.
"With our automated production lines, Raytheon can produce highly reliable, small satellites quickly and affordably," said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. "Because our advanced manufacturing facilities are flexible, we can build small satellites or satellite components designed by Raytheon or another company."
Small satellites are less expensive and can be produced more quickly than large geostationary satellites. Operating from lower orbits, the smallsats apertures and sensors can meet mission requirements normally accomplished by larger satellites.
"Because of its innovative technology and advanced production facilities, Raytheon has been the ideal partner for this program," said George Moretti, Millennium Engineering and Integration executive director.
In addition to Millennium, Raytheon worked with Rincon Research and Space Dynamics Laboratories to develop and produce the Polar Scout satellites. The smallsats are scheduled to be launched into lower Earth orbit later this year.
Numerous fires dot Indochina in this image recorded on April 9 by the Suomi NPP satellite. The spacecraft's
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor detected 2,370 separate hotspots throughout the region. Most likely
these fires are agricultural in nature and were set to clear fields, but some could have been started by lightning or set
intentionally and got out of control. Suomi NPP was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 2011. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz
LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC
Astrophysics CubeSat Demonstrates Big Potential in a Small Package
(APR 12) PASADENA, Calif. - The ASTERIA satellite, which was deployed into low-Earth orbit in November, is only slightly larger than a box of cereal, but it could be used to help astrophysicists study planets orbiting other stars. More
Virgin Galactic Conducts Flight Test
(APR 7) Virgin Galactic successfully conducted the first supersonic, rocket-powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity spacecraft on April 5.
The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft took off from Mojave, California at 8:20 PDT and climbed to about 46,500 feet above the Sierra Nevada mountains before releasing SpaceShipTwo. Following release, the crew of SpaceShipTwo performed a 30-second burn of its hybrid rocket motor while executing an 80-degree climb.
The maneuver accelerated the spacecraft to a speed of Mach 1.87 and lofted it to a maximum altitude of 84,271 feet. SpaceShipTwo then glided to Mojave, Calif. and made a runway landing.
Falcon 9 Launched
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg AFB on March 30. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Wear
(MAR 30) A Falcon 9 rocket carrying several satellites was successfully launched
from Vandenberg AFB this morning. The vehicle departed Space Launch Complex 4E on
south base at 7:13 a.m. and inserted 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites
into a polar orbit.
SpaceX Awarded Launch Contract
(MAR 14) Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, California, has been
awarded a $290,594,130 firm-fixed-price contract for launch services to deliver the
GPS III to its intended orbit. This contract provides launch vehicle production,
mission integration/launch operations/spaceflight worthiness and mission unique
activities for a GPS III mission, with options for two additional GPS III launch
services. Work will be performed in Hawthorne, California; Cape Canaveral Air Force
Space Station, Florida; and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be complete by March
2020. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were
received. Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement funding in the amount of $96,937,905
will be obligated at the time of award. The Contracting Division, Launch Systems
Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base,
California is the contracting activity.
Department of Defense
Jupiter's central cyclone at the planet's north pole and the cyclones that encircle it are visible in
this infrared image derived from data from NASA's Juno spacecraft. The colors in this composite
represent radiant heat: the yellow (thinner) clouds are about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-13° Celsius) in
brightness temperature and the dark red (thickest) are around -181 degrees Fahrenheit (-118.33°
Celsius). The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. manages the Juno mission for the
principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Image credit:
(MAR 10) The Ventura County Astronomical Society will host a public astronomy
lecture from 7:15-9 p.m. on March 16 at the Moorpark College Forum.
Dr. Luisa Rebull of Cal Tech will discuss how anyone can access the vast amount of
research-quality astronomy data and interpret it like the pros.
The Moorpark College Forum is located at 7075 Campus Rd, Moorpark, CA 93021.
Parking and admission are free.
NASA InSight Mission to Mars Arrives at Launch Site
(FEB 28) NASA's InSight spacecraft has arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California to begin final preparations for a launch this May. More
Falcon 9 Paz Launched from Vandenberg
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying Spain's Paz spacecraft and two secondary payloads climbs into the dawn sky on
February 22 following liftoff from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Patti Gutshall took this photo of the event from
Santa Barbara using a Nikon D800E camera and zoom lens set to 175mm. Image copyright 2018, Patti Gutshall.
Used with permission
(FEB 22) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg successfully launched a
Falcon 9 rocket carrying a PAZ payload from Space Launch Complex-4 here, Thursday,
Feb. 22, at 6:17 a.m. PST.
Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the space launch commander.
"This launch was a testament to the hard work of Team Vandenberg, SpaceX and Spain,"
said Wood. "I am proud of everyone involved that continues to pave the way for our
nation's access to space."
(FEB 21) The February 22 launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg AFB could
provide an interesting light show visible over a wide area.
The rocket is scheduled to lift off at 06:17 PST during an instantaneous launch window.
The Falcon will carry Spain’s Paz earth-imaging satellite and two secondary payloads
into a nearly-polar orbit. The window is very short because of the need to precisely
position Paz with respect to other spacecraft to form an earth-observation satellite
Launch occurs about 24 minutes before Vandenberg sunrise. Weather permitting, the Falcon 9’s
bright orange flame should be visible in western California at least as far away as
San Luis Obispo and Santa Monica.
A computer simulation by Rick Baldridge for a previous launch opportunity shows the rocket will exit the Earth’s shadow
and climb into sunlight at about T+2 minutes 10 seconds.
That would make the launch especially interesting as the Falcon 9’s exhaust plume is
illuminated by the Sun while suspended in a semi-dark sky. Such a display could be
visible from San Francisco to Baja California.
The full moon turns red as it passes through the earth's shadow before sunrise on January 31. Jason
Nguyen took this image of the colorful event from his rooftop in Santa Ana, Calif. using a Fuji xt2
camera with a 100-400 lens and 2x teleconverter. Image copyright 2018, Jason Nguyen. Used with
Wednesday Morning Eclipse
(JAN 28) If the weather cooperates, early risers in the Southwest can enjoy a total lunar eclipse on the morning of January 31.
The key times (in Pacific Time) for this event are as follows:
03:48 Partial eclipse begins
04:42 Totality begins
06:08 Totality ends
07:11 Partial eclipse ends
Experts predict that the normally gray moon will probably be bright orange in color during totality. To see the
eclipse, you won't need any special equipment, the unaided eye will suffice. However, you will have a better view if you use
binoculars or a small telescope.
Possible February Light Show
(JAN 21) Sky watchers in parts of California and Mexico may be treated to an interesting dawn light show next month thanks to a rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is slated to lift off from south base no earlier than February 10 and carry Spain’s Paz satellite into orbit.
Liftoff is currently scheduled for 06:22 PST, 31 minutes before sunrise at Vandenberg. Although Falcon 9 night launches are easily visible over a wide area due to the rocket’s brilliant flame, this launch could have an added dimension: The Twilight Effect.
An analysis of lighting conditions by amateur astronomer extraordinaire Rick Baldridge shows if the launch occurs at 06:22 PST on February 10, the rocket will climb out of the Earth’s shadow and into sunlight at T+ 2 minutes 15 seconds.
If this is the case, the launch could be especially interesting as the Falcon 9’s exhaust plume is illuminated by the Sun while suspended in a semi-dark sky. If the sky is clear, such a display could be visible in western California from San Francisco to San Diego and in Baja California.
Delta IV NROL-47 Launched from Vandenberg
(JAN 12) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg successfully launched a
United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance
Office payload from Space Launch Complex-6 here, Friday, Jan. 12, at 2:11
Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the space launch
"This was an incredibly important launch for the 30th Space Wing and our
mission partners," said Wood. "The entire team - the 30th Space Wing, the
National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance, and others - worked
hand-in-hand to ensure this launch was safe and successful. This was an
outstanding effort by everyone."
This satellite was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium (5,2) configuration
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. Established by the U.S. Air Force, the
EELV program provides assured access to space for Department of Defense and
other government agencies.
Delta IV NROL-47 Delayed
(JAN 11) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The United Launch Alliance Delta IV
rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload from Space Launch
Complex-6, was delayed today due to an issue with a ground system valve.
The launch is rescheduled for Friday, Jan. 12, with a window beginning at 1:00 p.m. PST.
(JAN 10) Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. – The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV carrying the NROL-47 mission was scrubbed today due to high ground winds.
The launch is planned for Thursday, Jan. 11, from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 1:00 p.m. PT.
United Launch Alliance
Millions of people along the East Coast of the United States faced snow and ice, gusty
winds, power outages, travel delays, school closings, and flooding as a rapidly-intensifying
Nor’easter plowed northward during the first week of 2018. The Suomi-NPP spacecraft took
this nighttime image of the storm at 10:30 p.m. PST on January 3. In this view, the clouds
are lit from above by the nearly full Moon and from below by the lights of the heavily
populated East Coast. Suomi-NPP was launched from Vandenberg AFB in October 2011. Image
Credit: NASA/NASA Earth Observatory
SMC, Orbital ATK Sign Agreement
(JAN 4) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -The Space and Missile Systems Center and Orbital ATK have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) as part of the company's effort to certify its Next Generation Launcher for National Security Space (NSS) missions. This cooperative agreement facilitates data exchanges and protects proprietary and export-controlled data. The CRADA will be in effect until all non-recurring design validation activities are complete.
The purpose of certification is to provide the Air Force with high confidence that launch providers are capable of meeting launch requirements for NSS missions according to the New Entrant Certification Guide (NECG). Formal design and mission reliability assessments ensure the launch system's ability to provide the necessary payload mass-to-orbit, orbital insertion accuracy and other requirements to place a healthy payload into its intended orbit.
While certification does not guarantee a contract award, it does enable a company to be awarded competitive launch services contracts.
Currently, ULA's Delta IV and Atlas V, and SpaceX's Falcon 9 Upgrade are the only certified launch vehicles for sending NSS payloads into orbit. Having multiple certified launch vehicle providers and multiple families of launch systems bolsters the U.S.' continued assured access to space.
The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.
Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center