MAKE CHAPTER 288 YOUR AVIATION HOME! E-AB, TYPE CERTIFIED, VINTAGE, WARBIRD, ETC.
MAKE CHAPTER 288 YOUR AVIATION HOME! E-AB, TYPE CERTIFIED, VINTAGE, WARBIRD, ETC.
The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the program is classified.
The Senate has confirmed Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman to be the U.S. Space Force’s next Chief of Space Operations, positioning him to lead the nation’s newest military service.
With his confirmation in hand as well as his promotion to general, Saltzman is poised to step into the position held by Gen. John “Jay” Raymond who has served as the Space Force’s highest-ranking military officer since the service was created on Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond is retiring after a 38-year career that spanned senior service in both the Air Force and Space Force.
Saltzman will lead the Space Force and its 16,000 Guardians and civilians at a key moment as it transitions more fully from the early stages of its creation that focused heavily on organization, administration, doctrine, and sustainment to a more operational posture and modernizing the constellation of satellites that are at the heart of the Space Force’s operation.
Saltzman, who previously served as Space Force Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear, acknowledged that mandate and the importance of space during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing Sept. 13.
“Space is truly a critical domain for U.S. interests, so we must all be clear-eyed in our understanding that our strategic competitors have invested heavily in fielding systems capable of disrupting, degrading and even destroying our space capabilities,” Saltzman said at the time.
“If confirmed I will work to ensure that the Space Force is ready to protect these vital interests from these threats,” he said.
Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall welcomed Saltzman’s confirmation while also praising Raymond’s contributions in leading the Space Force since its birth.
Despite its small size compared to the other military services, the Space Force’s strategic importance is clear. During his confirmation hearing Saltzman pledged to build on Raymond’s accomplishments. “The inspired work that General Raymond started has set us on a path. It is a path towards advanced capabilities, modern, resilient architectures, and innovative approaches to meet our service missions.”
When asked for his biggest worry surrounding the shifting conditions in space, Saltzman offered an assessment that is now widely shared. “We are still the greatest spacefaring nation on the planet,” Saltzman said at the time. “The Space Force’s capabilities … are extremely capable and I still put us at the head of the table. Unfortunately, our adversaries are investing heavily to close that gap and supersede us,” he said. “I’m worried about the pace with which they are making those changes, China first amongst them but Russia also which is committed to investing heavily in the kinds of capabilities that are going to disrupt, degrade or even destroy our on-orbit capabilities.”
Historic Air Force installations on Florida’s Space Coast marked a modern milestone on Dec. 9 as they were redesignated Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station—the first facilities named as part of the new service.
“Today, we start a new era at both Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base, aligning the installations’ names with their critical missions,” Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond said at a ceremony to mark the occasion.
Eighty-six graduates from the United States Air Force Academy celebrated receiving their diplomas April 18 and moved directly into the U.S. Space Force, marking the first infusion of commissioned personnel into the new service since its creation last year.
Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance at the event and congratulated the entire graduating class.
“Two years ago, President Trump laid out a bold vision for American leadership in space,” said Pence. “Last December, the president made that vision a reality when he put his signature on a historic law that created the six branch of our armed forces, the United States Space Force. I am proud to stand here today as 86 members of the Air Force Academy’s class of 2020 will commission as the first company grade officers of the Space Force.”
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett commented on the vital role these new officers will play in defense of the nation and in the newest branch of the U.S. military.
“As our nation’s first Space Force lieutenants, these leaders will defend democracy and protect the ultimate high ground of space,” said Barrett. “As they depart the Academy today, they will join the ranks of air and space power pioneers. They will be instrumental in building a lean, agile and forward-looking Space Force defending our nation, our allies and our American interests in space.”
While approximately 16,000 military and civilians from the former Air Force Space Command are now assigned to the Space Force, the arrival of these newest officers signals that the new service is taking a significant step toward filling its ranks.
The Space Force leadership team Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations, and Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, senior enlisted advisor, welcomed the new space professionals with excitement.
“The class of 2020 will go down in history as the very first class to commission officers directly into the U.S. Space Force,” said Raymond. “I couldn’t be more excited for you and for us. Although we have 16,000 Active Duty Airmen and civilians assigned to the Space Force officially on the Space Force scrolls, you are numbers 3 through 88.”
“You are our future, and I need you to be bold as you will build this service from the ground up,” said Raymond as he specifically addressed the new lieutenants. “You will help define our warfighting culture, build the Space Force as the first digital service, and lay the foundation of a service that is innovative and can go fast in order to stay ahead of a significant and growing threat,” he added.
The 86 newest members of the Space Force will fill a variety of roles, the majority of whom are assigned to the space operations career field and will be moving to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to begin undergraduate space training. The remaining members are assigned to a variety of career fields, such as cyberspace operations, intelligence, developmental engineer and acquisitions manager, and will go to their respective initial skills training locations across the country. Upon completion of training, all 86 will be assigned to a Space Force unit.
Created by an act of Congress, the Space Force came into existence Dec. 20, 2019, with a mandate to organize, train and equip a force that protects U.S. and allied interests in space. It must also be able to provide space capabilities to the joint force through the combatant commands.
Over the next 18 months it will define its organizational structure and move personnel into the service through military transfers and accessions, and civilian new hires and assignments. As military transfers are complete, there will be roughly 6,500 military personnel in the Space Force while approximately 3,500 civilians will remain Department of Air Force civilians assigned to the new service. In addition, there will be around 6,000 Air Force personnel, military and civilian, assigned to the Space Force to provide the base operational support functions such as medical, logistics, personnel, finance, and security forces.
The next step in personnel planning begins May 1, when currently serving active-duty Airmen eligible to transfer to the Space Force will be able to volunteer to do so, with transfers expected to begin around Sept. 1.
Founded in 2011 by software mogul Paul Allen and aerospace engineering legend Burt Rutan, Mojave, California-based Stratolaunch LLC provides high-speed flight test and orbital launch services.
The company’s reusable, air-launched testbeds enable rapid and iterative testing in the hypersonic environment, thereby affording clients longer periods of time in the hypersonic condition. By partnering with Stratolaunch, government, military, commercial, and academic clients are afforded opportunity to avail themselves of high-quality data by which to accelerate the designs of new hypersonic concepts, mature extant technologies, and pursue spiral development—a family of software development processes characterized by repeated iteration of a set of elemental development processes.
Currently, Stratolaunch’s fleet comprises primarily a carrier aircraft dubbed Roc, after the mythical, giant bird of prey; and Talon-A, an autonomous, reusable, rocket-powered, hypersonic flight vehicle. Roc features a twin-fuselage design slung beneath a 385-foot wingspan—the longest ever flown—and boasts a 550,000-pound payload and a Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTOW) of one-million-three-hundred-thousand pounds.
Talon-A’s relatively diminutive 28-foot (8.5-meter) fuselage and 11.3-foot (3.4-meter) wingspan belie the machine’s six-thousand-pound (2,700-kilogram) launch mass and airspeed envelope of Mach 5.0 to Mach 7.0 (3,334 to 4,667-knots).
Ultimately, Roc will be capable of carrying up to three Talon-A vehicles contemporaneously, making possible rapid constellation deployment to differing inclinations.
Paired, the two machines constitute a genuine aerospace spectacle—a syncretism of dizzying immensity and blistering speed borne respectively aloft on columns of burning Jet A-1 and rocket fuel.
On 28 October 2022, Stratolaunch commenced captive carry in-fight testing of the Talon-A prototype. Roc ascended into the azure vastness above California's Mojave Desert with the test-vehicle slung to a purpose-built amidships attachment pylon. The flight, Roc’s eighth, lasted just over five-hours, reached a maximum altitude of FL230 (7,000 meters), and reportedly met the entirety of its engineering, performance, and telemetric objectives.
On 13 January 2023 at 14:51 PST, Roc and Talon-A rose as one from the Mojave Air and Space Port, climbed to an altitude of 22,500-feet (6,858-meters), and remained aloft for six-hours—the giant aircraft’s longest sortie to date—before returning to Mojave and landing without incident. By way of such carefully orchestrated captive carry tests, Stratolaunch is establishing the foundation for a series of Talon-A drop tests slated to commence later this year.
Stratolaunch CEO and President Zachary Krevor extolled in an email statement: “Our amazing team is continuing to make progress on our test timeline, and it is through their hard work that we grow closer than ever to safe separation and our first hypersonic flight tests.” Mr. Krevor added: “The thorough evaluation of release conditions will provide data to reduce risks and ensure a clean and safe release of Talon-A during future tests. We are excited for what’s ahead this year as we bring our hypersonic flight test service online for our customers and the nation.”
In addition to being Roc’s longest flight, the 13 January test mission occasioned the mammoth aircraft’s first departure from the local Mojave area—likely to the bewilderment of terrestrial spectators.
In 2011, Stratolaunch Systems signed a twenty-year agreement with the Kern County Airport Authority, Mojave, California, for the lease of 81,000-square-meters (twenty-acres) at the Mojave Air and Space Port upon which to build production and launch facilities.
Air-launching from the world’s largest operating aircraft can eliminate technical and logistical barriers.