Featured Image Source: U.S. Space Force
The United States Space Force, the new branch of the Air Force, just welcomed 86 newly graduated Air Force Academy cadets. Air Force General Jay Raymond, who serves as the first chief of space operations, said last month – “We're going to commission Air Force Academy cadets directly into the Space Force. They will take the oath of office and they will be commissioned into the Space Force, so we are really excited to get those cadets onto the team.”
The founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk, has been an avid supporter of the new military branch, he congratulated the Air Force Academy 2020 graduates, “The years ahead will see an incredible change in aerospace technology and you are going to make it happen. Congratulations Class of 2020!” he said.
U.S. Space Force recently released an inspiring video to recruit new members. In the video the narrator says: “…Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”
On May 6, the U.S. Space Force awarded SpaceX with an additional $8.9 million that would allow the military to observe and receive direct knowledge into SpaceX missions. The sum is an upgrade to an existing military contract valued at $297 million, which was awarded in February 2019 for national security rocket launch services. The updated contract now allows U.S. Space Force members insight into “non-National Security Space [NSS] fleet surveillance” SpaceX missions until the end of this year, in November. Space News reports, a representative for the Space and Missile Systems Center stated, the upgraded contract “enables the Space Force to engage in engineering surveillance of SpaceX’s fleet of launch vehicles for non-NSS launches.”
The upgraded contract "enables the Space Force to engage in engineering surveillance of SpaceX’s fleet of launch vehicles for non-National Security Space launches."
This setting would enable the new Space Force members to observe, learn about aerospace engineering, and how SpaceX runs operations not only during military satellite missions, also during commercial and internal rocket launches. “This contract provides for non-NSS fleet surveillance efforts across the SpaceX family of launch vehicles for non-NSS missions.”
The Space Force’s spokesman told Space News that when the $297 million launch service contract was signed, the contract included access to SpaceX data including insight into launch vehicles but did not include access to commercial and internal missions. – It did not include access to “tools, systems, processes and launch site activities developed by the launch service provider for non-NSS missions.” The contract upgrade enables the U.S. Space Force to have full access to SpaceX’s engineering on all rockets and spacecraft in operation from today until November. The Space Force will use the knowledge it gathers to train its members and “enhance mission assurance for NSS [National Security Space] launches using the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.” Also, gaining “Engineering insight into all launches by an NSS launch provider such as SpaceX, directly contributes to increased reliability of national security launches,” the spokesperson stated.
SpaceX does have a very active launch manifest this year. The company is expected to conduct over thirty missions, most of those will be internal Starlink satellite deployments which SpaceX aims to conduct at least twice per month. Starlink satellites are deployed atop previously flown Falcon 9 rockets, which are capable of returning from space and conduct vertical landings. SpaceX will also perform its most important mission of all –launching its first NASA Astronaut crew to the International Space Station in about three weeks, on May 27th. Two astronauts will launch aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The U.S. Space Force is expected to oversee these missions.