General Atomics Blitzer Railgun

In 2007, building upon knowledge gained under an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Innovative Naval Prototype contract, GA initiated development of the Blitzer™ system using internal funds to accomplish two major objectives:

  • Demonstrate the technical maturity of tactically relevant railgun technologies in a proving-ground environment.
  • Generate interest in the viability of smaller Electromagnetic (EM) gun systems for use in a broader set of missions, including integrated air and missile defense (IAMD)

GA accomplished both of these objectives by demonstrating the launcher and power system technologies to full design levels in 2009 during testing with non-aerodynamic rounds, followed by testing of aerodynamic rounds during the fall of 2010.

The tests demonstrated the integration and capabilities of a tactically relevant EM Railgun launcher, pulsed power system, and projectile. The projectiles were launched by Blitzer at Mach 5 with acceleration levels exceeding 60,000 gee, and exhibited repeatable sabot separation and stable flight.

Is the US Navy Preparing to Conquer Space?

By Chuck Lesher


Lunar base with a long electromagnetic track for a mass driver.

Colonizing space will require a lot of stuff, iron to build space stations, titanium to build spaceships, oxygen for us to breathe, and many other resources. Lifting all this up from the surface of the earth on rockets is simply not feasible. Thus, we will need to find these resources somewhere else. You need look no further than the moon. It has all the natural resources we need to colonize space but the question remains, how do we get them into orbit? Even on the moon, rockets are not feasible, but something else might be.

An idea emerged over a century ago called a mass driver. The first mass driver described in print was in the 1897 science fiction novel A Trip to Venus by John Munro. He called it an electric gun. It was his imaginative method of launching vehicles into outer space from the Earth’s surface. Munro describes the electric gun as a series of coils energized in a timed sequence to provide the force necessary to get the spaceship into orbit.

Continue reading

Atlas V Launches NROL-38 Spy Satellite

Atlas V 401 Ascends with the National Reconnaissance Office NROL-38 Satellite
Image Credit: ULA

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) placed a new spy satellite into orbit this morning. An Atlas V 401 left the Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral at 5:28 AM Phoenix time (1228 UTC) carrying the NROL-38 satellite. This is ULA’s 50th EELV launch and uses a Centaur upper stage to carry the satellite to Geosynchronous orbit.

The mission is classified, but some clues about the mission can be gathered from the rocket used and the notice to airmen (NOTAMS) issued for the launch. The Atlas V 401 means the spacecraft is relatively light, and the flight path was due East from the Cape, which indicates a low inclination orbit. The spacecraft is likely a Satellite Data System (SDS) communications satellite, destined for geostationary orbit.

Image Credit: ULA

Image Credit: ULA

Image Credit: ULA

Image Credit: ULA

Air Force X-37B Returns

The video shows the landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in infrared and visible light of the Air Force X-37B spaceplane. The Orbital Test Vehicle-2 (OTV-2) touched down at 5:48 AM Phoenix time Saturday (12:48 UTC).

The mystery mission spacecraft was launched on 5 March 2011, and spent 469 days in orbit, exceeding its design mission time of 270 days by 199 days.

The first X-37B was launched on 22 April 2010 and spent 220 days in orbit before returning on 3 December 2010.

Marshall Space Flight Center Image of On-orbit Functions for the X-37 Space Plane
Image Credit: NASA / MSFC

Air Force Plans X-37B Landing

The US Air Force made the following announcement today concerning the X-37B:

30th Space Wing Public Affairs

5/30/2012 – VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.

The X-37B launched March 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Since then, Vandenberg crews have conducted extensive, periodic training in preparation for landing. “The men and women of Team Vandenberg are ready to execute safe landing operations anytime and at a moment’s notice,” said Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)
Image Credit: US Air Force

Atlas V Launch of AEHF-2 on 4 May 2012

Launch Complex 41
Atlas V 531 and AEHF-2 at T-4 Minutes
Image Credit: NASA TV

After Yesterday’s scrub, the launch is on schedule for 11:42 AM Phoenix time, which is now.

Launch was on time and all systems are functioning well 8 minutes into the flight.

Centaur second stage has separated and begun its burn.

50 minutes into the flight, the spacecraft has separated from the Centaur second stage.

Atlas V Launch of AEHF-2 on 3 May 2012 – Rescheduled

Launch Complex 41
Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral
Image Credit: ULA

At 30 minutes from launch, the Atlas V 531 launch of the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) was at T-minus 4 minutes in a built in hold. An issue with purging the Interstage Adapter compartment is being worked. It may be that a manual valve on the level 3 platform is out of configuration.

And 50 minutes after the launch window opened, ULA has announced that the launch has been scrubbed and rescheduled for 4 May 2012. The launch window will open at 11:42 Phoenix time (1842 UTC) and extend for two (2) hours. Weather is predicted to be 80% favorable for the launch.

The webcast from ULA begins about 30 minutes prior to 11:42 PM Phoenix time (1842 UTC). NASA video and mission events can be found here.

Delta IV Places NROL-25 into Orbit

Delta IV
Delta IV Launch with NROL-25 Spy Satellite
Image Credit: ULAA United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV 5,2 finally got off the ground Tuesday, launching the NROL-25 spy satellite. The launch had been delayed since 29 March due to evaluations of the RL10B-2 upper stage engine.

Observers believe that the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spacecraft is the second in a new series of radar imaging satellites. An Atlas V launched the first of these craft in September of 2010, and it followed the same 123 ° retrograde orbit.

This spacecraft is probably carrying a synthetic aperture radar system, capable of observing surface and underground through all kinds of atmospheric conditions.

You Tube has the full launch video: