Space operations and the Battle of Kasserine Pass.
Space tourism begins: billionaire founders cross the Karman Line...
The month of July saw two major milestones for commercial spaceflight, space tourism division. Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flew suborbital passengers in their respective spacecraft, Unity and New Shepard. Both Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos were aboard their companies' flights. Branson, who decided to take the ride, beat Bezos to the edge of space. Virgin Galactic flew on July 11th, New Shepard on July 20th (WIRED covered both flights).
As Space.com points out, however, while the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the US Department of Defense regard space as beginning at an altitude of fifty miles (which is why X-15 pilots got their astronaut wings), the Kármán line, accepted by the Fédération aéronautique internationale (FAI), puts the edge of space slightly higher, at 100 kilometres (54 nautical miles, 62 miles, or 330,000 feet). Whichever you accept, congratulate those aboard SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard Line on their ride, their weightlessness, and their safe return.
..but might not necessarily qualify as astronauts...
The FAA issued new guidelines on what it takes to qualify for commercial astronaut wings. "To be eligible for FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings," the FAA said on July 20th, "commercial launch crewmembers must meet the following criteria:
a. "Meet the requirements for flight crew qualifications and training under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 460.
b. "Demonstrated flight beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth as flight crew on an FAA/AST licensed or permitted launch or reentry vehicle.
c. "Demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety."
It would appear that not all members of the two commercial crews who flew in July meet the flight crew qualifications and training requirements. Still, they did ride their rockets, and so congratulations, again, to them all.
....and a member of the US House plans to introduce taxes on the young industry.
Oh, and plans are afoot to tax commercial spaceflight. US Representative Earl Blumenauer (Democrat, Oregon 3rd) said he intends to introduce legislation he's calling the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which would impose new excise taxes on space tourism trips. "Space exploration isn't a tax-free holiday for the wealthy," he said. "Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some." Representative Blumenauer is particularly concerned about carbon emissions from space tourism. In the case of Blue Origin's first flight, the carbon debt would have to be incurred somewhere in the supply chain. Its BE-3 motor burns liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, and that, as the Blue Origin announcers noted as they narrated New Shepard's first flight, its burn just produced steam. That's not true of Virgin Galactic or SpaceX, which use hydrocarbon fuels, but in any case calculating carbon emissions is complicated. Popular Sciencelays out the calculations.
How would the tax work? Blumenauer's office explained:
"Blumenauer envisions the SPACE Tax Act to include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space, like that for commercial aviation.
"It would also include a two-tiered excise tax for each launch into space. The first tier would apply to suborbital flights exceeding 50 miles above the Earth's surface but not exceeding 80 miles above the Earth's surface. The second tier, which would levy a significantly higher excise tax, would apply for orbital flights exceeding 80 miles above the Earth's surface.
"Exemptions would be made available for NASA spaceflights for scientific research purposes. In the case of flights where some passengers are working on behalf of NASA for scientific research purposes and others are not, the launch excise tax shall be the pro rata share of the non-NASA researchers."
Boeing's Starliner launch scrubbed, rescheduled.
Boeing's Starliner, set for an uncrewed launch to the International Space Station this month, has seen its important flight delayed by problems with the ISS. ("Blame the Russians," as Barron's put it. Space.com says that a software error caused a thruster aboard the ISS to malfunction, causing the station to lose attitude control for about forty-five minutes.) An earlier test flight saw Starliner unable to fully complete its mission, and the upcoming run to the ISS, now planned for August 3rd, is seen, the Washington Post reports, as an important test of the aerospace giant's engineering prowess.
The satellite marketplace.
Amazon has acquired Facebook's satellite unit, the Information says, bringing in some two dozen engineers expected to help Amazon advance its plans to deliver broadband service from a constellation in low-earth orbit.
The US National Reconnaissance Office is using bailment agreements, Federal News Network reports, as an easier means of working with smaller companies. The legal mechanism offers NRO a way of taking temporary possession of overhead imagery, and it's viewed as quicker, easier, and more desirable for the provider than more commonly used acquisition vehicles.
NRO is also proposing, according to Breaking Defense, a "Civil Reserve Space Fleet" of commercial imagery satellites. The Fleet would be analogous to the Air Force's Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) or the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet. One distinctive feature of the proposal is a right to permanent control over imagery taken during the period when the Fleet was activated, giving NRO "shutter control" over collection.
GLONASS: espionage and reconnaissance potential.
Newlines anonymous NATO sources to the effect that the latest version of Russia's GLONASS position, navigation, and timing infrastructure will incorporate both military sensing and target location capabilities.
Space hacking concerns.
It hasn't been a major problem recently (although it has occurred, Recode says, in 2007, 2008, and 2014) but industry and Government are considering the risks that cyberattacks pose to space systems and the terrestrial infrastructure that surrounds them.
US Defense Department takes another run at its cloud contract: JEDI starts over.
The Department of Defense has cancelled the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract and will, the Wall Street Journal reported, rebid the work as a multi-vendor contract. It's unwelcome news for Microsoft, but a good result for Amazon, which has long contested the award.
Wayne Lloyd, CTO of Federal at RedSeal, sees the outcome as effectively inevitable--it would have been hard for the Defense Department to move to what may well have become a single-cloud model:
"The Pentagon's decision to scrap the JEDI contract may suggest a single-cloud model was almost in reach; however the truth is that the DoD is currently using multiple cloud vendors that could never have been easily coalesced into an overarching system, regardless of whether JEDI was implemented or not. Even organizations that have started their cloud from scratch don't have a true one-cloud system, making the choice presented by the JEDI litigation a false one.
"The single-cloud model is an ideal that cannot be achieved overnight. DoD, and any other organization that is considering a centralized cloud, should recognize how the previous use of other vendors makes the path towards a single-cloud a potential minefield of network vulnerabilities."
A novel historical analogy: how Space Force can spare the US another Kasserine Pass.
An essay in C4ISRNet offers a different historical analogy, a change from the customary Pearl Harbors and 9/11s. To avoid another Kasserine Pass, the author argues, an independent space commander should be given authority over space assets and operations. The battle of Kasserine Pass, fought in Tunisia during February 1943, probably the worst defeat the US Army ever suffered in a stand-up fight, was lost, the argument runs, because limited Army Air Forces' units were parceled out to ground commanders as auxiliaries, and weren't given the central direction by a competent specialist commander that might have enabled the US to achieve at least air parity, and with it victory. The lesson applies, the essay says, to space force.
Maybe. But we note one counterexample and some alternative explanation of the defeat. First, the possible counterexample: Marine Corps air-ground operations during the Second World War didn't seem to suffer from want of centralized direction, which suggests that the Army's failure in Tunisia may have had alternative explanations. The ground forces were still relatively inexperienced, and in any case American failure at Kasserine was grossly overdetermined by command and staff work so deficient that it's still used as a bad example of what not to do in US Army branch schools.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting .
The evolving world of radiation-hardened electronics for space(Intelligent Aerospace) Space electronics devices are becoming smaller and more complex, which is putting pressure on designers to move to plastic packaging, and invest in new test and upscreening technologies, John Keller reports for Military & Aerospace Electronics.
AFRL releases MUSTER BAA(Intelligence Community News) The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) released the broad agency announcement (BAA) for Multi-Spectral Sensing Technologies Research and Development (MUSTER).
Amazon Acquires Facebook's Satellite Internet Group(The Information) Amazon has acquired a team of more than a dozen wireless internet experts from Facebook in an effort to boost its multibillion-dollar effort to launch thousands of satellites and offer broadband service in the U.S. and abroad, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed. The Facebook employees moved to ...
In photos: Virgin Galactic's 1st fully crewed spaceflight with billionaire Richard Branson(Space.com) The space tourism company Virgin Galactic successfully launched its founder Richard Branson and five other crewmembers into suborbital space on July 11, 2021 in a milestone mission that marked the first fully crewed flight of its VSS Unity space plane. See photos of the mission preparations in this Space.com gallery as it happened in this exciting gallery. Main story: Virgin Galactic launches Richard Branson to space in 1st fully crewed flight of VSS Unity
Serco wins spot on $400M C5ISR MAC(Intelligence Community News) Serco Inc. announced that it has been awarded a re-compete contract with the U.S. Navy to provide engineering and technical support for aviation C5ISR electronic systems.
Airbus completes integration of 3rd Copernicus Sentinel-2(Geospatial World) Airbus has finished the integration of the Copernicus Sentinel-2C satellite. It is the third of its kind and will now be shipped to Munich to undergo extensive environmental tests to prove its readiness for Space. The test campaign will last until March 2022. The data gathered by Sentinel-2 satellites are used for monitoring land use [ …]
The U.S. Navy Has a New Weapon to Defeat Killer Drone Swarms(19FortyFive) The United States Navy is testing out a device made by a company called DroneShield that could offer serious protection from drones — and not just single quadcopters either, but from swarms of drones. But first a bit on the boat in question. The Navy tested the DroneShield on their one-of-a-kind M80 Stiletto. It's a [ …]
Navy greenlights production of PAX River-tested electronic attack system(The Southern Maryland Chronicle) El Segundo, Calif., (June 29, 2021) — Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business (NYSE: RTX), has completed Milestone C for the U.S. Navy's Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band, or NGJ-MB. "We're well into development testing. It's time to move towards production," said Annabel Flores, vice president of Electronic Warfare Systems at Raytheon Intelligence & [ …]
SMC Eyes MEO Sats For Missile Tracking(Breaking Defense) Space Force is actively considering whether its future missile warning and tracking satellites should be stationed in a wider range of orbits than in the past to improve the network's accuracy and resiliency, an SMC official says.
A Raytheon Coyote just defeated a drone swarm(Asia Times) On Thursday night, a "kamikaze suicide drone" appeared from nowhere, and attacked an oil tanker off Oman, in the Arabian Sea. According to a report in the UK's The Sun, the blast …
NTS-3, Aiming To Improve On GPS, Starts Integration Tests In August(Breaking Defense) WASHINGTON: Ground integration tests of the experimental NTS-3 satellite, designed to demonstrate alternate positioning, navigation and timing capabilities to those now provided by GPS, will begin next month, an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) official tells Breaking Defense. "We're just getting into what we call the 'end-to-end system integration' test. We're kicking that off in …
Germany establishes new military space command(Defense News) The German military has announced the creation of a separate command dedicated to space, becoming the latest of a handful of nations prioritizing more resources and missions among the stars.
Government's 'Critical Software' Rules Could Drive Away Industry(Breaking Defense) "It's quite possible that if [the government] doesn't get this right, then none of those companies will want to do business with government," defense acquisition expert Bill Greenwalt told Breaking Defense. "That's extremely problematic."
MDA Director Sees New Space Investment(Breaking Defense) "What we don't want to do is launch a weapon that then opens a seeker and there's nothing there, because the target has maneuvered," Vice Adm. Jon Hill, said.
No Plans for Space Force PT Test Yet(Military.com) Space Force guardians must wait a little longer for physical training standards unique to their service as it figures out what requirements best match its needs.
Oregon congressman proposes new space tourism tax(Space.com) U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) plans to introduce legislation called the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions Tax Act, which would impose new excise taxes on space tourism trips.
DOD cancels $10 billion JEDI cloud contract after two-year legal battle(Washington Business Journal) After prevailing time and again through numerous court battles to secure its single-vendor cloud infrastructure megacontract, the Department of Defense said Tuesday it decided to cancel the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure in favor of a new approach.