Aerojet-General Corp. in Sacramento, CA received an $11.4 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification to evaluate, develop, and demonstrate “innovative post boost propulsion concepts.” It exercises option 1 of the Phase II baseline program for research and development to and component technologies to support the Minuteman III nuclear missiles. The scheduled completion date is June 2008. The Headquarters 526th ICBM Systems Wing at Hill Air Force Base, UT issued the cotract (FA8402-05-C-0036-P00002).
The inaugural flight of SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon-1 rocket ended in failure on Friday, as the rocket and its satellite payload was lost just after liftoff. SpaceX had launched the two-stage Falcon 1 rocket at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) from the U.S. military’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands. Webcast video from the rocket appeared to show a rolling motion before the feed was lost, but a precise analysis of the problem is not yet available. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk promised that “more information will be posted once we have had time to analyze the problem.”
The rocket was expected to deploy the small, $800,000 FalconSat-2 micro-satellite built by U.S. Air Force Academy. The little satellite cube was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and was designed to measure the effects of space plasma on communication and global positioning satellites.
The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA has issued a pair of contracts to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Littleton, CO, related to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The EELV program was designed to reduce the cost of government space launches through greater vehicle modularity, component standardization, and contractor competition, with system requirements that emphasized simplicity, commonality, standardization, new applications of existing technology, streamlined manufacturing capabilities, and more efficient launch-site processing.
University of Dayton Research Institute, Dayton, OH received a $9.9 million cost plus fixed fee contract. Solicitations began in December 2005, and negotiations were complete in February 2006. The Headquarters Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, issued the contract (FA8650-06-C-7615). As the DefenseLINK release notes:
“The Air Vehicles directorate has for several years conducted focused research on high temperature thermal protection systems that support high-speed air vehicles. The primary application of this technology is to un-powered hypersonic technology vehicles such as those being developed in the DARPA/AFSPC Falcon Program. However, this technology has many other applications to high-speed air, re-entry and space access vehicles. Ongoing research into these thermal protection systems is approximately half complete; this effort will carry the research through to completion over the next five years.”
Alliant Techsystems subsidiary ATK Thiokol has received contract options worth $541 million from Northrop Grumman Corporation to refurbish components and replace propellant on Minuteman III nuclear ICBM Stage 1, 2 and 3 rocket motors. This award is the fifth of seven full-rate production options under the ICBM Propulsion Replacement Program. The fifth option is worth $194 million, covers 78 booster sets, and will extend the program through March 2008. Options 6 and 7 are for 84 and 50 booster sets respectively, and would extend the program through August 2009.
The Minuteman III Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP) began in 1998 as a Joint Venture between ATK and Pratt & Whitney. All work content was transitioned to ATK in the 2003-2004 timeframe following a contract restructure. Most of the work on the contract will be performed at the company’s facilities in Utah. See corporate release.
The firm has nearly 300 employees working in the areas of robotics, space instruments, launchers and solar arrays, with unique expertise in lightweight, rigid and strong structural components. The very next day after the acquisition was announced, however, EADS Space CEO Francois Auque told French daily Les Echos that “Whatever happens, we already know that 700 job cuts will be necessary in the coming three years; 500 engineering assistants for our subcontractors, and 200 at EADS Space Transportation”, the rocket launching unit of EADS Space.
Booz-Allen and Hamilton in McLean, VA received a $5.5 million contract modification for advisory and assistance services that focus on acquisition program management and systems engineering/ analysis capability. This will support future system programs that include, but are not limited to: land based strategic defense, common air vehicle (the hypersonic spaceplane portion of the FALCON program), intercontinental ballistic missile demonstration/ validation, integrated applications programs, and ICBM long-range requirements planning studies.
This action exercises option one of the contract, and implements a period of performance from December 1, 2005 through November 30, 2006. The location of performance is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. Headquarters 526th ICBM Systems Wing at Hill Air Force Base, UT issued the contract (FA8204-05-C-0022/P00002).
On Sept 8, 2005, DID noted that AirLaunch LLC would soon be negotiating with DARPA to begin negotiations for a development contract under the FALCON/Common Aero Vehicles program, which aims to launch small satellite payloads and possibly even hypersonic aircraft into space for less than $5 million, and on only 24 hours notice. AirLaunch LLC has now taken the next step, winning a $17.8 million Phase 2B contract for a one-year effort to continue development of the QuickReach small satellite booster.
AirLaunch and its team of contractors recently completed Phase 2A of the program, marked by the safe release of a dummy rocket from an Air Force C-17A cargo plane (see DID coverage). Phases 2B and 2C will focus on additional risk reduction and maturing the launch vehicle design and concept of operations. Activities will include…
On Sept. 8, 2005, DID covered the evolution of DARPA’s FALCON program for low-cost, fast satellite launches. The goal is a booster that can launch a small satellite for less than $5 million with only 24 hours notice. On Sept. 29, 2005, AirLaunch LLC’s QuickReach system was successfully tested with a dummy booster that was live launched from a C-17 aircraft at 6,000 feet. AirLaunch LLC has now completed an $11.3 million contract under the Falcon program Phase IIA. If selected to move forward, the project would lead to a test flight to orbit in early 2008. See the full release for more details.
Here at DID, we applaud the innovation even as we wonder whether a similar approach could also be used by lesser powers to launch 2-stage ICBMs with INS/GPS guidance.
Meanwhile, the competition for the overall USAF/DARPA Small Launch Vehicle program has narrowed to three companies: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), AirLaunch LLC, and Lockheed Martin Corp. A fourth Phase 2 competitor, Microcosm of El Segundo, CA, recently broke up its subcontractor team, terminated arrangements with consultants working on the Falcon effort, and laid off about 15 of its 50 employees based on its assumption that it has lost out in the competition. Next phase awards are expected in the near future, and the program continues to evolve in other ways. At present…