An experimental SpaceX rocket exploded at the end of a high-altitude test flight on March 30, but heavy fog at the site left even SpaceX at least publicly uncertain about exactly what caused the explosion.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III last week received a detailed briefing on DOD space programs and national security threats in the space domain. This was Austin’s first high-level briefing on space issues since taking office.
Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. took over as the first Black Air Force Chief of Staff in August during one of the most dynamic periods for the military in modern times. "Think about Covid, racial disparity, change of administration, extremism, sexual assault," he said, running down just some of the challenges and changes. "All these things are factors that our leaders have to deal with." The service is also staring into the maw of a Washington budget battle that will almost certainly inflict casualties on some weapons programs that do not directly advance the Pentagon's effort to prepare for great power competition with Russia and China.
The Air Force plans to develop a family of highly survivable drones for multiple missions to replace the MQ-9 — but rather than the Reaper’s traditional ground-attack role, the service’s top priority seems to be counter-air capabilities.
“Rep. Adam Smith’s recent attack against the F-35 program was followed by an avalanche of anti-F-35 hype putting the aircraft under pressure in the court of public opinion. Unfortunately, most of these assaults have been made without realization or acknowledgement of the benefits that the F-35 provides. The F-35 is actually excelling in combat, over a dozen countries are in line to buy it, and the price per unit is below the cost of alternative fighter designs with less capability. China has worked tirelessly to build a copy of the F-35 as a key component of its military modernization program. If the F35 is such a ‘bad deal,’ why is the Chinese Air Force trying to copy it in quantity?” writes retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power.
There are, unfortunately, plenty of reminders of the growing problem of orbital debris. On March 18, the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS), responsible for tracking objects in Earth orbit, announced that the retired NOAA-17 polar-orbiting weather satellite had broken up eight days earlier, creating 16 pieces being tracked (and likely more too small to be tracked.) On March 22, 18 SPCS reported that a Chinese satellite, Yunhai 1-02, had broken up four days earlier, creating 21 pieces being tracked.
An Air Force civilian employee who allegedly threatened to take part in overthrowing the government was barred from his workplace and may face further repercussions, a service spokesman confirmed March 26.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden paid tribute March 29 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to mark the 48th anniversary of the departure of the last U.S. combat troops from the war zone.
“When the Department of Defense and the Air Force announced in January that Huntsville, Ala., had been chosen as the permanent location for U.S. Space Command, the 11th combatant command, I was surprised and disappointed. More so when I read the recent reports of the Air Force’s ratings of Peterson Air Force Base, as middle or bottom third relative to the six finalists in several categories,” writes retired Gen. Gene Renuart, former commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., from March 2007 to July 2010.
“Nested within the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and 57th Wing priorities, Red Flag is aligned with our National Defense Strategy,” said Col. William Reese, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. “Using complex mission scenarios against a powerful and unrestricted aggressor team, participants get the best high-end training available.”
Whew, now here’s some good cosmic news: NASA has given Earth the all clear for the next century from a particularly menacing asteroid.