Quick Takes (03-28-16)

DMSP-19 launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in 2014. Credit: ULA

DMSP-19 launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in 2014. Credit: ULA

DMSP-19’s loss prompts on-orbit shuffle

The U.S. Air Force has given up on efforts to recover Defense Meteorological Weather Satellite Program spacraft that malfunctioned last month. Air Force Space Command said March 24 they have “ceased all recovery efforts” for the DMSP-19 weather satellite, which stopped responding to commands Feb. 11. The satellite, launched less than two years ago, had a five-year design life. An older DMSP satellite, launched in 2006, has moved from a backup to a primary role as a result of the DMSP-19 failure. Here’s the status of seven other satellites in the constellation:
DMSP


Credit: Orbital ATK

Credit: Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK, which is in full production on an 81-satellite Iridium NEXT order and ramping up work on the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 spacecraft for NOAA and NASA, is expanding its satellite factory in Arizona with help from the state government. The company announced March 18 it will expand its Gilbert, Arizona, satellite factory by nearly 5,600 square meters, creating 155 new jobs. The Arizona Commerce Authority is providing a $750,000 grant to support the expansion. The company currently employs more than 1,750 people in the state, counting facilities in nearby Chandler and Mesa. In addition to the Iridium and NOAA work, Orbital ATK said March 24 that it has “several other active programs for other customers and excellent prospects for new business, which will add to our Gilbert activities.”


846The cost estimate for the U.S. Air Force’s $5.5 billion GPS 3 program jumped $846 million over last year’s figure, according to the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports, released March 24. The cost jumped primarily due to the purchase of two more satellites and technical issues with the navigation payload for the first two satellites. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the program’s prime contractor.
587The U.S. Air Force and Raytheon have struggled to develop a new ground system for the GPS 3 satellites, known as the Operational Control Segment, or OCX. The $4.2 billion price tag now includes a revised cost estimate and technical issues. Air Force officials have said OCX is the most troubled acquisition program in the Defense Department.


Candid Camera

Images from a commercial camera on the International Space Station provide new evidence Iran is close to conducting another satellite launch. The images, taken by an UrtheCast camera mounted on the station’s Russian segment, show launch preparations underway at an Iranian site in early March. Previous reports have suggested Iran will attempt the launch of a small launch vehicle in the near future, although an early March launch window came and went without a liftoff.

 “Captured March 2nd and delivered to the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs for analysis, this recent HD Iris video of Iran’s Imam Khomeini space launch facility shows increased activity in the area, suggesting that a launch of the Simorgh SLV rocket — which is designed to send satellites into space — could be fast approaching,” Urthecast’s Theras Wood wrote March 16 on the company’s blog. Credit: URTHECAST

“Captured March 2nd and delivered to the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs for analysis, this recent HD Iris video of Iran’s Imam Khomeini space launch facility shows increased activity in the area, suggesting that a launch of the Simorgh SLV rocket — which is designed to send satellites into space — could be fast approaching,” Urthecast’s Theras Wood wrote March 16 on the company’s blog. Credit: URTHECAST


Margaret Hart and Amy Callner outside NASA Headquarters. Credit: Margaret Hart

Margaret Hart and Amy Callner outside NASA Headquarters. Credit: Margaret Hart


Verbatim | That’s probably the only time

“When else are we going to get to roller skate down the street with foil hats on, holding a sign that says ‘God Loves Uranus’?”

Amy Callner, who, with science educator Margaret Hart, staged a counterprotest March 21 outside NASA Headquarters in response to a protest by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, which is apparently opposed to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.


“Yes, that comes with dysfunctional parents.”

— Former ULA vice president Brett Tobey, explaining during a University of Colorado, Boulder, seminar that United Launch Alliance’s corporate parents, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, approve funding for ULA’s next-generation Vulcan rocket on a quarterly basis. Tobey resigned his position as ULA’s vice president of engineering after ULA disavowed his remarks.

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