Air Force putting F-22 Raptors back in service

The action follows a four-month shutdown of the $412-million Lockheed Martin fighters to investigate why pilots’ oxygen was being cut off.

F-22 going back in serviceCritic Pierre Sprey said the oxygen system’s problems can be traced to the complexity of the F-22, which takes air from a jet engine’s compressor section to supply oxygen to pilots. Previous oxygen systems simply used a separate bottle that fed air to pilots. (Airman First Class Courtney / September 21, 2011)
September 20, 2011, 4:56 p.m.
 The U.S. Air Force‘s F-22 Raptor fighter jets have been cleared for takeoff after a government safety investigation grounded the entire fleet for more than four months.
The Air Force said that all 170 F-22s will be inspected before flight operations resume. The fleet was put out of service May 3 after a dozen incidents since April 2008 in which pilots’ oxygen was cut off.

It is the latest issue for the F-22, which cost an estimated $412 million each, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s latest report, and have not been used in combat since entering service in 2005.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in a statement that the F-22s are now safe to fly, but he did not specify what went wrong with the plane’s oxygen system.

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NASA’s Aim for Rocket: Deep Space

NASA unveiled plans Wednesday for a $35 billion rocket program designed to surpass the storied boosters of the Apollo era and eventually be powerful enough to launch astronauts as far as Mars.

NASA unveiled plans for a long-awaited $35 billion new rocket program designed to dwarf the storied boosters of the Apollo era and powerful enough to launch astronauts to asteroids and eventually to Mars. Andy Pasztor has details on The News Hub.

The ambitious project caps months of disputes between NASA and lawmakers, and follows internal White House debates over its price tag. The heavy-lift rocket will be the cornerstone of the U.S.’s efforts to explore deep space, taking “humans to places no one has gone before,” said Charles Bolden, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

But huge budget hurdles loom. Mr. Bolden’s upbeat announcement Wednesday—surrounded by a clutch of lawmakers on Capitol Hill—kicked off what is likely to be the Obama administration’s uphill battle to sell the concept of building, testing and eventually deploying the largest, most capable fleet of rockets ever at a time of escalating deficit worries. Some design details leaked out previously, along with preliminary cost estimates.

With the first unmanned test flight slated for 2017, followed by a manned flight four years later, NASA seeks to control costs by initially relying on solid rocket-motor technology and engines derived from the retired space shuttles. Later, the plan foresees shifting to next-generation liquid-fueled boosters in a gradual, building-block approach.

The ultimate goal, according to industry and government officials, is to launch 140 tons or more, including a capsule already under development and able to carry at least four astronauts, far beyond Earth’s orbit in future decades.

Current unmanned Pentagon rockets can blast about 25 tons into orbit, and the Saturn V boosters that sent astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s had a capacity of 130 tons. But unlike the Saturn V, the new rocket is intended to carry self-propelled spacecraft that will separate from the rocket after leaving Earth’s orbit and continue into deeper space. The plans call for these spacecraft to land on an asteroid as early as 2025, followed by missions to moons of distant planets and, after 2030, perhaps the Martian surface.

[0914nasa] Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/NASAThis artist’s conception released by NASA on Sept. 14 shows the Space Launch System.

Funding remains uncertain even in the near term. NASA officials stressed that getting to the maiden launch of the unmanned rocket will cost roughly $18 billion, but that doesn’t include the subsequent additional cost of building a fleet of rockets, modernizing launch facilities, upgrading manned capsules and providing astronauts with spacecraft able to land on future destinations.

Inside the White House, budget and science officials worried about the overall cost of the new family of rockets, dubbed the Space Launch System. Some accelerated schedules, which called for earlier manned missions than in the final plan and more-frequent flights through 2025, carried price tags exceeding $60 billion.

In the end, NASA and the White House opted to kick off a pared-down program, which may not produce the most-powerful manned versions of the new boosters for roughly two decades. Like most other domestic agencies, NASA already faces pressure on Capitol Hill to reduce spending levels from previous years.

For some critics, the announcement’s lack of detailed destinations or long-term launch schedules showed a lack of vision. NASA left out the program’s “compelling rationale,” needed “to help it avoid becoming the contested, overly expensive, late and ultimately canceled program so many fear it is doomed to be,” said Mark Albrecht, an industry consultant who was a top White House space official in the late 1980s.

NASA envisions contractors competing for work on the rockets before and after the first manned flight in 2021, opening up potentially lucrative new business for the U.S. aerospace industry.

“President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big,” Mr. Bolden, the NASA chief and a former astronaut, said in a statement. “Tomorrow’s explorers will now dream of one day walking on Mars.”

Over the next few years, a separate fleet of privately developed rockets is intended to replace the space shuttles, serving as taxis and trucks to service the international space station.
By contrast, NASA’s planned rocket, eventually slated to be 400 feet tall with a lift capability roughly five times that of a single shuttle or current unmanned Pentagon booster, aims to push human exploration deeper in the solar system.

Wednesday’s bipartisan show of support contrasted with the intense policy and budget battles that preceded the announcement, with lawmakers taking the extreme step of issuing subpoenas to force NASA to turn over certain planning documents.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas), one of the rocket’s staunchest supporters, said NASA, the White House and Congress finally ended up “on the same page.” She said the design and timetable released Wednesday indicate a commitment that “we really are going forward now, all as one, with one goal.”

NASA and White House officials had balked at congressional efforts to steer work on the new rocket to contractors and states hurt by July’s retirement of the shuttle fleet. At the same time, Mr. Obama has sought to channel substantial NASA funding to spur development of commercially developed rockets and vehicles to transport cargo and astronauts to the international space station.

Sensitive to NASA’s history of kicking off new rocket programs only to have them stall due to budget pressures, this time NASA officials have tried to hedge their bets. From an engineering perspective, the design is intended to be flexible and more affordable than in the past,

Such a strategy also has political advantages because it complies with previously approved congressional language to maximize use of contracts and factories associated with earlier rocket-development initiatives killed by the Obama administration.

A smaller, 70-ton version of the rocket will be the first to lift off, and NASA is betting that initial milestone will help shore up public and congressional support. Follow-on plans also seek to insulate the agency somewhat from sudden budget shifts.

William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s top manned exploration official, told reporters Wednesday that engineers intend to fashion a common core and then strap on different types and sizes of external boosters—presumably supplied by rival contractors—to create a range of more-powerful variants.

That sets up “a pretty agile or flexible” development path, Mr. Gerstenmaier said, allowing the agency “to deal with changes in annual budgets and it’s not going to mean the end of the program.”

Describing NASA’s long-term view of the role of entrepreneurs and privately developed rockets in exploring the solar system, Mr. Gerstenmaier said they should compete for future work and “we will enable them as much as we can.” But he added, “We will let the future determine how they fit” into NASA’s ultimate rocket program.

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Drone pilots have a front-row seat on war, from half a world away

The Pentagon has adapted consumer-driven technology such as satellite television and digital video to give pilots, combat troops and commanders at headquarters a real-time look at the enemy on computer screens. For the first time in warfare, troops on the ground can see the enemy miles away on live video feeds.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Sam NelsonU.S. Air Force Capt. Sam Nelson, on the left console, looks to his sensor operator while the team flies its drone on a mission over Afghanistan. The two men operate from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada as part of the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times /)By David Zucchino Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Reporting from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. — From his apartment in Las Vegas, Sam Nelson drove to work through the desert along wind-whipped Highway 95 toward Indian Springs. Along the way, he tuned in to XM radio and tried to put aside the distractions of daily life — bills, rent, laundry — and get ready for work.Nelson, an Air Force captain, was heading for his day shift on a new kind of job, one that could require him to kill another human being 7,500 miles away.Seated in a padded chair inside a low, tan building, he controlled a heavily armed drone aircraft soaring over Afghanistan. When his shift ended, he drove 40 minutes back through the desert to the hustle and neon of Las Vegas.

Drone pilots and crews are the vanguard of a revolution in warfare, one that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies have bet on heavily. The first Predator carrying weapons was rushed to Afghanistan just four days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Today, the Air Force is spending nearly $3 billion a year buying and operating drones, and is training pilots to fly more unmanned than manned aircraft. Demand is so strong that even non-pilots such as civil engineers and military police are being trained.

More than 7,000 drones of all types are in use over Iraq and Afghanistan. The planes have played an integral part in the offensive now being carried out in Marja, Afghanistan, by U.S. Marines and British and Afghan troops.

The Pentagon has adapted consumer-driven technology such as satellite television and digital video to give pilots, combat troops and commanders at headquarters a real-time look at the enemy on computer screens. For the first time in warfare, troops on the ground can see the enemy miles away on live video feeds.

Drone strikes in Pakistan are part of a separate CIA program that has killed more than two dozen senior Al Qaeda and Taliban figures, including two leaders of the Pakistani Taliban in the last six months.

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Boeing tests submarine drone off Santa Catalina Island

The 18-foot mini-sub made at the company’s defense systems facility in Anaheim could be used for national defense and environmental protection.

By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
An 18-foot, bright-yellow submarine drone is being tested off the coast of Santa Catalina Island for possible use by the U.S. militaryto stalk enemy waters, patrol local harbors for national security threats and scour ocean floors to detect environmental hazards.Although robotic aircraft already play a critical role in modern warfare, taking out insurgents with missile strikes in the skies above Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the same robotic revolution hasn’t taken place in the world’s oceans.Submarine drones have had limited use in ocean exploration, but Boeing Co.hopes to forge a much more sweeping role in national defense and environmental protection, said Mark Kosko, program director for the company’s Unmanned Underwater Systems division.”We’re at the point that we can take this show on the road,” he said. “This is a technology that can now move beyond the test role into a more meaningful role.”

The mini-sub was made at Boeing’s defense systems facility in Anaheim.

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SpaceX rocket to make a test dock with space station

Mission calls for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to visit the International Space Station as part of a $1.6-billion contract with NASA.

SpaceXSpaceX is preparing for a November launch to the International Space Station. (Al Diaz, Miami Herald / August 18, 2011)

August 18, 2011

Hawthorne-based rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or

SpaceX, is planning to send a rocket to dock with the International Space Station later this year — a test mission that takes the company one step closer to cashing in on a $1.6-billion contract with NASA.

In a statement, SpaceX revealed that the space agency has approved an unmanned mission in which its Dragon space capsule would dock with the space station.

“NASA has given us a Nov. 30, 2011, launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS,” the company said.

SpaceX makes the Dragon capsule and 18-story Falcon 9 rocket at a sprawling facility in Hawthorne that once housed the fuselage assembly for Boeing Co.‘s 747 jumbo jet. The hardware is put on a big rig and sent to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for launches.

In December, SpaceX became the first private company to blast a spacecraft into Earth’s orbit and have it return intact. The unmanned flight was intended to show NASA that SpaceX could handle the task of carrying cargo into space.

If it pulls off a trip to the space station, it will be the clear front-runner take over the responsibility of running cargo missions and possibly carrying astronauts to the space station for NASA, now that the space shuttle is retired.

SpaceX already has a $1.6-billion contract to haul cargo in 12 flights to the space station for NASA. If the November mission is successful, the company would start in earnest to fulfill the contract.

“This next mission represents a huge milestone not only for SpaceX, but also for NASA and the U.S. space program,” the company said.

While nearly everyone’s eyes were on the final space shuttle flight in July, SpaceX engineers and technicians at Cape Canaveral were readying the rocket that will lift the cargo capsule into orbit.

The rocket has two successful test launches.

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NASA’s next spaceflight

NASA’s next exploration mission — visiting an asteroid —When the last orbiter Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center, ending the 30-year-old space shuttle program, NASA will have its sights set on the next big exploration mission: sending astronauts to an asteroid in about 15 years.

Orion spacecraftAt Lockheed, engineers have been at work on the Orion spacecraft, but first NASA must figure out a system for launching it, which is at the mercy of the federal budget. (Patrick H. Corkery, Lockheed Martin / July 19, 2011) 
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High costs F-22 Raptor fighter jets

The fleet of 158 F-22 planes — costing $412 million each — has never entered combat and has been grounded since May 3 because of a government safety investigation. The probe follows more than a dozen incidents in which oxygen was cut off to pilots, a problem suspected of contributing to at least one fatal accident.

F-22 Raptor jetThe F-22 Raptor jet hasn’t been used in conflicts because its technology wasn’t needed, Air Force officials say, adding that the F-22 is worth its high price tag — an estimated $412 million each — because it is the “most advanced fighter aircraft, with unrivaled capabilities.” (Ben Stansall, AFP/Getty Images / August 7, 2011)


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Falcon hypersonic vehicle

Engineers and scientists monitoring the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, which was designed to fly at 20 times the speed of sound, lost contact with the vehicle midway through a scheduled 30-minute flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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NASA awards $10 million in contracts to private space firms

August 10, 2011 | 10:33am

NASA handed out $10 million in contracts this week to seven commercial space companies to boost the space agency’s payloads into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.It is yet another step by NASA in its course to provide seed money to companies to develop the next step in spaceflight technology. NASA_LogoThe winners of the two-year contracts included four California companies: Camarillo-based Whittinghill Aerospace, as well as Masten Space Systems, XCOR Aerospace Inc. and Virgin Galactic — all three of which are based in Mojave.

NASA was not specific on how much of the $10 million each company will receive, or what exactly they will be lifting into sub-orbit. Rather, NASA said in a statement that “the flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.”

Other companies selected were Armadillo Aerospace of Heath, Texas; Near Space Corp. of Tillamook, Ore.; and Up Aerospace Inc. of Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Bobby Braun, NASA’s chief technologist, said in a statement: “The government’s ability to open the suborbital research frontier to a broad community of innovators will enable maturation of the new technologies and capabilities needed for NASA’s future missions in space.”

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4th of July Freedom Festival & Fireworks – Navy Golf Course Cypress, CA

Seal Beach Naval Weapon Station presents an  All-American Event for the entire family!Doors open at 4pm. Festival Seating, Games & Activites for the kids, Live Music & Fireworks start at 9pm. $5.00-person: ** $69.00 rate 1 to 4 persons for the 4th of July weekend if you mention “4th of July Freedom Festival”.

**To make a reservation call the Long Beach Best Western Golden Sails Resort Hotel at
562-596-1631 at 6285 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, CA 90803

or email us at

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