Tag Archives: Defense Department

SpinLaunch gets first launch contract, from Defense Department

Capitalism in space: The smallsat launch company SpinLaunch has gotten its first launch contract from a division of the Defense Department.

In a statement today (June 19), SpinLaunch announced that it has received a “launch prototype contract” from the U.S. Department of Defense under a deal arranged by the Defense Innovation Unit. The Long Beach, California-based company aims to launch its first test flights in early 2020 from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

SpinLaunch is developing a “kinetic energy-based launch system” that accelerates a small payload-carrying booster to hypersonic speeds with a spinning system on the ground. A chemical rocket would kick in once the payload has been launched from the ground system.

The image provided by SpinLaunch at the link appears to show a 3D-printed lifting-body type spacecraft attached to the arm of a large centrifuge. This suggests that after this spacecraft reaches orbit and deploys its payload, it would then return to Earth to be reused.

SpinLaunch has raised $40 million in investment capital, so they are real. Whether they can make this happen by 2020 remains to be seen.

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Trump administration reorganizes military space into single command

The Trump administration yesterday announced that it is doing what many in the military space sector have been proposing for several years. reorganizing all military space departments into a single command.

This is not a space force, but a realignment of the military bureaucracy in an effort to make space operations more focused and efficient. Whether it will actually do that I have my doubts. My impression from the news reports is that the military is using this as an opportunity to create a new upper management layer, thus increasing the size of bureaucracy.

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New cost figures for Space Force

A budget analysis by a Washington think tank has proposed a new range of cost figures for a Defense Department unit devoted to space operations.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, unveiled a highly anticipated report on Monday, detailing cost estimates for standing up a Space Force as a separate military branch. Harrison made headlines in September when he criticized Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s estimate — $13 billion over five years to establish a new service and a space command — as overinflated.

Harrison estimated it would cost the Pentagon an additional $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion over five years to stand up a new service, based on the assumption that more than 96 percent of the cost would be covered from existing budget accounts within DoD. Harrison’s numbers, however, are hard to compare directly with the Air Force secretary’s because they do not include costly items that Wilson put into her proposal, such as a Space Command and additional programs and people she argued would be needed to fight rising space rivals China and Russia.

Harrison laid out cost numbers for three options — a Space Corps, a Space Force Lite and a Space Force Heavy. The total annual budget of the new service would range from $11.3 billion to $21.5 billion under the three options. None includes the National Reconnaissance Office whose size and budget are classified.

These options are a much more realistic analysis of the costs for a military reorganization of its space operations. For example, most of the money for these options is already being spent, with the cheapest option including $11 billion of its $11.3 billion cost figure from present allocations.

I however now ask: Why are we spending $11 billion for offices in the Pentagon, with staffing exceeding 27,000? From what I can gather, these budget numbers do not appear to include the cost for any actual military satellite launches. It seems to me this should be doable with far fewer people, especially if the Pentagon is hiring private companies to build the satellites themselves.

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Pentagon buries report documenting $125 billion of waste

Why the revolt? The Pentagon purposely buried a 2015 report that documented $125 billion in wasteful Defense Department spending because they feared Congress would use it to justify sequestration.

The report, which was issued in January 2015 by the advisory Defense Business Board (DBB), called for a series of reforms that would have saved the department $125 billion over the next five years. Among its other findings, the report showed that the Defense Department was paying just over 1 million contractors, civilian employees and uniformed personnel to fill back-office jobs. That number nearly matches the amount of active duty troops — 1.3 million, the lowest since 1940.

The Post reported that some Pentagon leaders feared the study’s findings would undermine their claims that years of budget sequestration had left the military short of money. In response, they imposed security restrictions on information used in the study and even pulled a summary report from a Pentagon website. “They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” former DBB chairman Robert Stein told the Post. “We proposed a way to save a ton of money.”

The corruption in Washington today runs very deep. It will take many years and a lot of change to fix it. Don’t expect a lot from Trump or this Republican Congress. They might be a start (maybe), but even if they worked entirely to get the federal cleaned up they couldn’t do it in the next four years. And no one should expect them to work entirely to clean this up.

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New Defense directive permits concealed carry on bases

Change: A new Department of Defense directive, issued last Friday, now permits soldiers and recruiters to carry concealed weapons while at work.

U.S. military personnel can now request to carry concealed handguns for protection at government facilities, according to new Defense Department directive issued last week in response to a series of deadly shootings over the last seven years. While service members already were authorized to carry weapons as part of specific job responsibilities, the new policy allows them to apply to carry their privately owned firearms “for personal protection not associated with the performance of official duties,” the directive says.

It is interesting that this directive was issued while Obama was still president. Apparently, the Trump victory gave those in charge in the Pentagon the courage to make it happen, knowing that Obama would have no power over them stop it, and knowing that Trump was likely to endorse it.

I remain unsure what kind of president Donald Trump will be. What does seem to be happening is that his victory is empowering a lot of people to defy and push back against the leftwing political culture that has ruled the U.S. since the 1960s in ways I have never seen. Should be an interesting four years.

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Unsafe anthrax shipments more extensive than first revealed

Government marches on! The Defense Department has now admitted that the improper shipment of live anthrax samples was far more widespread than they originally told us.

“As of now, 24 laboratories in 11 states and two foreign countries are believed to have received suspect samples. We continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who is leading the ongoing investigation pursuit to its statutory authorities. The Department will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to the public,” Defense Department said in a statement.

The Defense Department had previously reported labs in nine states and Osan Air Force Base in South Korea were impacted.

Words fail me.

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Deal reached on Defense authorization bill that had included language allowing the military to hold U.S. citizen indefinitely

A deal has been reached on a Department of Defense authorization bill that had included language allowing the military to hold U.S. citizens indefinitely without charge, both in and outside the U.S.

Not surprisingly for a modern journalist (who routinely miss the lead in their own stories), this article really doesn’t tell us whether that language is still in effect.

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