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MIGHTY TRENDING

Commanding Crew-1

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hopkins is leading an international crew of astronauts on a six-month mission to the International Space Station following a successful launch on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history.

SpaceX Crew-1 – Mike Hopkins. Individual Portrait – Space Suit. SpaceX Crew Flight Test (Demo-2) Backup Crew.. Location: SpaceX Headquarters, Rocket Road, Hawthorne, California Photo Credit: SpaceX/Ashish Sharma

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission lifted off at 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketNASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), into orbit to begin a six-month science mission aboard the space station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi onboard, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission is the first crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi launched at 7:27 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center to begin a six month mission onboard the orbital outpost. NASA Photo // Joel Kowsky

Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009, Hopkins spent 166 days in space as a long-duration crew member of Expeditions 37 and 38 and completed two spacewalks totaling 12 hours and 58 minutes. Before joining NASA, Hopkins was a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force. As commander, Hopkins is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the station.

Bookended by planning meetings with ground controllers, a day aboard ISS is packed with work from start to finish, said Hopkins during a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.

“It is usually going to involve three things; some type of maintenance, whether it’s a preplanned or something broke and you have to fix it; science, which is the primary reason for the space station, and exercise. We usually have at least two hours of exercise on our schedule every day. That’s really the next 12 hours.”

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins speaks to members of the media after arriving from Houston at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with fellow NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, left, Victor Glover, second from left, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, second from right, ahead of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Florida. NASA Photo // Joel Kowsky

The Crew 1 mission is the first of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

“I think that the development of these commercial vehicles isn’t involving just NASA. There’s a there’s a lot of good synergy that happens in programs like this. The Air Force is a part of and benefits from that effort”, Hopkins said.

“It’s not just the development of the new cap capsules per se, but it’s also the rockets that go along with that. Those same rockets can potentially be utilized by the Air Force for putting their payloads or platforms up in space. I think that’s one of the things that makes it very exciting, particularly for myself and some of the other Air Force astronauts. You’re not only supporting NASA but you’re also supporting your parent organization; in our case, the Air Force.”

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi inside Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA photo

The Crew 1 mission has several firsts, including: the first flight of the NASA-certified commercial system designed for crew transportation, which moves the system from development into regular flights; the first international crew of four to launch on an American commercial spacecraft; the first time the space station’s long duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members, which will add to the crew time available for research; and the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has licensed a human orbital spaceflight launch.

Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA.

In the International Space Station’s Kibo laboratory, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, Expedition 37 flight engineer, conducts a session with a pair of bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, November 4, 2013. NASA photo

The crew will conduct science and maintenance during a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory and will return in spring 2021. It is scheduled to be the longest human space mission launched from the United States. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days, as a NASA requirement.

Crew Dragon also is delivering more than 500 pounds of cargo, new science hardware and experiments inside, including Food Physiology, a study of the effects of an optimized diet on crew health and, Genes in Space-7, a student-designed experiment that aims to better understand how spaceflight affects brain function, enabling scientists to keep astronauts healthy as they prepare for long-duration missions in low-Earth orbit and beyond.

Among the science and research investigations the crew will support during its six-month mission are a study using chips with tissue that mimics the structure and function of human organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and diseases and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth, growing radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space, and testing a new system to remove heat from NASA’s next generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU).

During their stay on the orbiting laboratory, Crew-1 astronauts expect to see a range of un-crewed spacecraft including the next generation of SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on its un-crewed flight test to the station. They also will conduct a variety of spacewalks and welcome crews of the Russian Soyuz vehicle and the next SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2021.

What little free time astronauts have aboard ISS is spent checking email, talking with family, or taking a view that only a relative handful of humans have seen in person.

Astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins during his first mission to the International Space Station in 2013. Photo // Col. Michael Hopkins USAF

“You’re 250 miles above the earth, and you’re getting to see it in a way that very few of us get to see – live and in person”, Hopkins said. “Your see the images and those are very representative, it looks very real, but when you see it with your own eyes, it’s stunning.

“Sometimes with your free time you just go hang out by the window. Even at nighttime. When it’s dark out, you wouldn’t think there’s that much to see, but then you’d be going over Africa, and there’d be this huge storm front over the continent, and you get to see these lightning storms from above. You see this flash of light going here and there and just dancing across the whole continent. Amazing. It never gets old.”

See and read more about U.S. Air Force astronauts HERE.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Third time’s a charm: Twin brothers deploy together again

From working at McDonalds, to attending Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), to serving more than 18 years each in the U.S. Army Reserve — identical twin master sergeants are mobilized together for the third time.

Master Sgt. Bryant Howard and his identical twin brother, Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, motor transport operators, 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), are currently deployed together to Kuwait — marking the third time they have deployed together.

Bryant decided to join first.


“I was in high school, (and) I was also working at McDonalds, and my mom called me lazy.” he said. “I figured I wasn’t, so I was going to get her mad and join the Army.”

For Joseph, the decision to join the Army was much easier after he found out that his brother was joining.

“I tried joining the National Guard. The recruiter didn’t take me seriously.” Joseph said. “I was going to back out, then I found out my brother was joining the Reserve, so I went ahead and joined too.”

Commanding Crew-1

From left to right — Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, S-3 (operations) noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), and Master Sgt. Bryant Howard, Trans-Arabian Network (TAN) NCOIC, 450th MCB, stand back to back at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dakota Vanidestine)

Once their decision to join was finalized, Bryant and Joseph needed to pass through Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before leaving for basic training.

“We were still in high school, just turned 18. We were trying to get on the battle buddy system, but something happened at MEPS and Bryant wasn’t able to join the same time I did.” Joseph said. “He had to go back four months later. Because of that, they couldn’t get us to Basic (Training) together, even though we went at the same time. I went to Fort Jackson; he went to Fort Sill.”

Although the buddy system was not possible for Basic Training, the brothers were reunited at Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

“We did go to AIT together at Fort Leonard Wood though. It took the drill sergeants a month to realize there was twins in the unit. They threw a fit because they thought we were just one super high-speed person” Joseph said.

Confusion on the brothers’ identities, like at AIT, has allowed them to play pranks all of their life.

“Our last day of high school, we switched classes.” Bryant said. “We had a different style uniforms in school — I had a pullover, and he had a button up shirt. Joseph’s teacher could tell us apart, even though she didn’t know me — but my teacher didn’t recognize him.”

After high school, the military was not the only time that Bryant and Joseph’s paths have crossed.

“We both worked at one time at Direct TV” Joseph said. “Also, we both had some sort of experience in law enforcement. I became a police officer, he worked in a jail — he was a corrections officer. The weird part about that was if I dropped somebody off at jail, they might run into him and think he was me. We don’t necessarily try to follow each other – that’s just the way things happen. It really is a small world.”

Even today their civilian careers have brought them not only to the same state, but the same location.

“Now were both mill-techs. Joseph works in the RPAC (Reserve Personnel Action Center) and I work for a unit” Bryant said.

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From left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Howard, Sgt. Michael Howard, motor transport operators, 498th Transportation Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Howard, motor transport operator, 850th Transportation Company, pose for a photo as Bryant prepares to redeploy back to the U.S. at Kandahar Airfield, April. 28, 2014.

“We actually work in the same building — two different units. I work for the 88th Readiness Division, he works for the 383rd Military Intelligence Battalion” Joseph added.

When Bryant and Joseph heard about an opportunity to deploy together with the 450th MCB, they took full advantage.

“We deployed together in 2003 and 2009 to Iraq” Bryant said.

“He deployed to Afghanistan at the end of 2013, and I deployed there in the beginning of 2014 — so we were actually at the same place” Joseph added. “Our older brother actually deployed with me.”

Currently, Bryant is the Trans Arabian Network Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC).

“I am the NCOIC over all the movement within Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and the surrounding locations.” Bryant said.

While Joseph serves as the S-3 (operations) NCOIC by taking care of “the personnel, administrative, and operational aspects.”

Once this deployment is complete, the brothers may finally part ways. Joseph is considering retirement from the Reserve.

“I do want to hit my 20 year mark.” Joseph said. “It’s really hard to keep up with the changing Army — the trends and everything. Depending on what happens when I get to the States, I may stick it out longer, or I may get out.”

“I’m just going to stay in until I can’t stand it anymore” Bryant added.

Together, Bryant and Joseph have dedicated over 37 years of service to the U.S. Army Reserve — both wearing the rank of master sergeant and have seven combined deployments to show for it.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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The Navy will soon order a new submarine that’s deadly AF

The Pentagon is trying to finalize an order for 12 new ballistic missile submarines, the lead ship of which will be named USS Columbia (SSBN 826).


The Navy hopes to place the order before the Trump administration takes office.

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Concept art of USS Columbia (SSBN 826). Image by Naval Sea Systems Command

According to reports by the Daily Caller and USNI News, the order will permit the Navy to start the process of designing and building the submarines. The Congressional Research Service reports that the sub will carry 16 Trident ballistic missiles, a decrease from the 24 missiles carried by the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines presently in service.

Four other Ohio-class submarines were converted to fire BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and to support SEALs with covert commando raids.

According to the CRS report, the Columbia-class submarines are expected to be 560 feet long and 43 feet in diameter, roughly the size of the Ohio-class submarine. The vessels will have technological improvements, notably a reactor that will not require refueling as well as taking advantage of techniques used to build the Virginia-class submarines, including modular construction and the use of open architecture to make upgrades easier.

Earlier this year, BreakingDefense.com reported that the vessels will be built by Electric Boat.

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Concept art of the Columbia-class submarine. (US Navy graphic)

This would be the ninth ship to carry the name USS Columbia in U.S. Navy service. The eighth, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, is still in service and has the hull number SSN 771.

A 2013 Navy release states that the first Columbia-class boomer is expected to begin construction in 2021, enter service in 2027, and undertake its first deterrence patrol in 2031. According to a report by USNI News, each sub is expected to cost about $8 billion.

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Navy wants deadlier submarines, like, now

Early discussions about increasing production of Tomahawk-armed Virginia-Class submarines are underway as the Navy and lawmakers look for ways to more quickly deliver new high-tech attack submarines to the force, Congressional sources told Scout Warrior.


The discussions, involving lawmakers and senior members of the Navy, are still very preliminary and in the early stages. The possibility being considered includes the prospect of building more Virginia-Class submarines per year – instead of the amount called for by the current ship-building plan.

The current status-quo effort to build two Virginia-Class boat per year, however, will drop to one as construction of the Ohio Replacement Program, or ORP, begins in the early 2020s.

The possibility now being deliberated is whether, at this future point in time, the Navy and industry could produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Ohio Replacement submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.

Increasing production hinges on whether the submarine-building industry has the capacity to move up to three submarines per year, the Congressional source said.

Current budget constraints and industrial base capacity limitations may make building three submarines per year too difficult to accomplish, even if the desire to do so was there from both Congressional and Navy leaders.

While Navy officials, including Navy Acquisition Executive Sean Stackley, did tell lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee Sea Power and Projection Force Subcommittee, production changes could emerge in the future, depending upon funding and industrial base capabilities.

Stackley explained that the service would like to maintain a two per-year production schedule for Virginia-Class attack submarines, even after production of the ORP begins.

“We are working today, and we hope and expect you to work with us, to determine how can we keep two Virginias a year proceeding within all the fiscal constraints and within the limitations of the industrial base, to address this compelling requirement for the nation,” Stackley told lawmakers.

U.S. Navy

The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained.

In the past, various sub-building industry executives have indicated that this might be possible, however such a prospect has not yet been formally confirmed as it would likely involve an increase in resources, funds and man-power.

One industry source told Scout Warrior that the submarine building community would support whatever the Navy and Congress call for.

“We’ll support Navy programs,” the source said.

Navy Leaders Want More Attack Submarines

The prospect of an acceleration comes as Navy commanders tell Congress they would like to see the fast arrival of more Virginia-Class attack submarines added to the Pacific Fleet.

Pacific Commander Harry Harris told Congress that he would like to see more submarines in his area of operations.

“The Pacific is the principle space where submarines are the most important warfighting capability we have. As far as Virginia-Class submarines, it is the best thing we have,” Harris told lawmakers. “As I mentioned before, we have a shortage in submarines. My submarine requirement is not met in PACOM (Pacific Command).”

Virginia-Class attack submarines are necessary for the U.S. to maintain its technological superiority over rivals or potential adversaries such as Chinas, Harris added.

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With their technological edge and next-generation sonar, the platform can successfully perform crucially important intelligence and surveillance mission in high-risk areas inaccessible to surface ships.  For this reason, Virginia-Class attack submarines are considered indispensable to the ongoing Pentagon effort to overcome what’s talked about in terms of Anti-Access/Area-Denial wherein potential adversaries use high-tech weaponry and sensors to prevent U.S. forces from operating in certain strategically vital areas.

Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology

Virginia-Class subs are fast-attack submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, torpedoes and other weapons able to perform a range of missions; these include anti-submarine warfare, strike warfare, covert mine warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance), anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces, Navy program managers have said.

Compared to prior Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles-Class, the Virginia-Class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said.

For instance, the ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.

“What enables this is the ship control system that we use. You can drive the ship electronically. This allows you the flexibility to be in littorals or periscope depth for extended periods of time and remain undetected,” former Virginia-Class attack submarine program manager Capt. David Goggins said several years ago.

The Virginia-Class submarine are engineered with this “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator, Goggins added.

“There’s a person at the helm giving the orders of depth and speed. There’s always a person in the loop. The software is telling the planes and the rudder how to move in order to maintain a course and depth. You still have a person giving the electronic signal,” he said.

Also, unlike their predecessor-subs, Virginia-Class subs are engineered with what’s called a “Lock Out Trunk” – a compartment in the sub which allows special operations forces to submerge beneath the water and deploy without requiring the ship to surface, service officials explained.

“SEALs and Special Operations Forces have the ability to go into a Lock Out Trunk and flood, equalize and deploy while submerged, undetected. That capability is not on previous submarine classes,” Goggins added.

The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.

Unlike their “SSBN” Ohio-Class counterparts armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.

Thus far, more than ten Virginia-Class subs have been delivered to the Navy, and seven are currently under construction.  Like other programs, the Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.”

Blocks I and II totaling ten ships, have already been delivered.

The program has also delivered its first Block III Virginia-Class Submarine, the USS North Dakota.

The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.

Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have — 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.

“For each one of these tubes you have hydraulics and you have electronics. What we did for Block III is we went to two very large Virginia Payload Tubes – now you have two tubes versus twelve. It is much easier to build these two tubes,” Goggins said.

Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say.

“In the future, beyond Tomahawk — if you want to put some other weapon in here– you can,” Goggins said.

Also, for Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 97-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. In fact, the Navy has already finished its Capabilities Development Document, or CDD, for what’s called the “Virginia Payload Modules.”

The Block V Virginia Payload Modules, or VPM, will add a new “module” or section of the submarine, increasing its Tomahawk missile firing capability from 12 to 40.

The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers, he explained.

Navy engineers have been working on requirements and early designs for a new, 70-foot module for the Virginia-class submarines engineered to house an additional 28 Tomahawk missiles.

While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.

The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Goggins explained.

From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”

“When the SSGNs retire in the 2020s – if no action is taken the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers. When we design and build VPM and start construction in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe. Over time as you build VPM you will eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number,” Goggins explained.

Shipbuilders currently working on Block III boats at Newport News Shipyard, Va., say Block V will involve a substantial addition to the subs.

“Block V will take another cylindrical section and insert it in the middle of the submarine so it will actually lengthen the submarine a little and provide some additional payload capability,” said Ken Mahler, Vice President of Navy Programs, Huntington Ingalls Industries, said several years ago.

The first Block V submarine is slated to begin construction in fiscal year 2019, Navy officials said.

Early prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology – which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.

Virginia-Class Acquisition Success

The official baseline for production of Virginia-Class submarines calls for construction of 30 boats, Navy spokeswoman Collen O’Rourke told Scout Warrior. However, over the years, many Navy officials have said this number could very well increase, given the pace of construction called for by the Navy’s official 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan.

The submarines are being built under a Dec. 22, 2008, the Navy awarded a contract for eight Virginia Class submarines. The third contract for the Virginia Class, or Block III, covering hulls numbered 784 through 791 — is a $14 billion Multi-Year Procurement, Navy officials said.

U.S. Navy

Multi-year deals are designed to decrease cost and production time by, in part, allowing industry to shore up supplies in advance and stabilize production activities over a number of years.

The first several Block IV Virginia-Class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. In April of last year, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.

Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, service and industry officials have said.

As a result, the operations and maintenance costs of Block IV Virginia-Class submarines will be much lower and the ships will be able to complete an additional deployment throughout their service live. This will bring the number of operational deployments for Virginia-class submarines from 14 up to 15, Navy submarine programmers have explained.

Overall, the Virginia-Class Submarine effort has made substantive progress in reducing construction time, lowering costs, and delivering boats ahead of schedule, Goggins said.

At least six Virginia Class Submarines have been delivered ahead of schedule, Navy officials said.

The program’s current two-boats per year production schedule, for $4 billion dollars, can be traced back to a 2005 challenge issued by then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen.  As mentioned, deliberations are already underway to consider stepping up this production schedule.

Mullen challenged the program to reduce production costs by 20-percent, saying that would allow the Navy to build two VCS-per year. This amounted to lowering the per-boat price of the submarines by as much as $400 million dollars each.

This was accomplished through a number of efforts, including an effort called “capital” investments wherein the Navy partnered with industry to invest in ship-building methods and technologies aimed at lowering production costs.

Other cost-reducing factors were multi-year contract awards, efforts to streamline production and work to reduce operations and sustainment, or OS costs, Navy officials explained.

The U.S. Navy is working to adjust the documentation paperwork regarding the size of its fleet of Virginia Class Submarines, changing the ultimate fleet size from 30 to about 51 ships, service officials have said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The future of the Army will be swarms of robots

In future combat, Army units may deploy a large unmanned aerial system that can serve as a mothership capable of unleashing swarms of autonomous aircraft for various missions.

With near-peer competitors advancing their anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the Army requires innovative ways, such as this one, to penetrate through enemy defenses, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.

“Quite frankly, if you’re going to some type of integrated air defense environment, I would prefer to have unmanned aircraft leading the way,” he said.


McConville, an aviator who has piloted several Army helicopters, spoke April 16, 2019, at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A.

“We want industry to be listening,” he said about the conference, “because we are telling them where we think we’re going and what we want them to develop.”

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Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Senior leaders expect the future battlefield to have dispersed units operating in densely-populated areas, where they will be contested in multiple domains, such as the air.

To be successful, they say, soldiers need to be able to present several dilemmas to the enemy, which is why the Army developed its new concept of multi-domain operations.

“We must penetrate enemy anti-access and area-denial systems in order to allow follow-on forces to disintegrate,” McConville said, “and find freedom of operational and tactical maneuver to exploit enemy forces.”

FARA/FLRAA

The Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team has started to rapidly develop two aircraft — the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and Future Long Range Attack Aircraft, which aim to replace some AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, respectively.

For the FARA program, the team expects to award two vendors next year to create competitive prototypes that will perform a government-sponsored fly-off in 2023, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, the team’s director, said in March 2019.

Earlier this month, a request for information, or RFI, for the joint FLRAA program was released in an effort to further refine requirements for the Army, Special Operations Command and Marine Corps.

Both programs are set to achieve initial fielding by 2028-2030, McConville said, adding no decisions have yet been made on how many will be procured.

The general, though, did say that air cavalry squadrons may receive FARA, while there would still be room for Apache helicopters.

“So for the old cavalry folks, you can dust off your Stetsons and shine up your spurs,” he said. “We see the Apache helicopter remaining in the attack battalions and being incrementally improved for some time into the future.”

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Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

FLRAA, he added, will likely be fielded first to units with forced- or early-entry missions like the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 82nd Airborne Division, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), and some National Guard units.

“We will acquire these aircraft with competitive prototyping processes to ensure the capability is there before we buy,” he said. “We want to fly, we want to try, before we actually buy and we’re looking for innovation from industry as we go forward.”

Under development is also a new aviation engine through the Improved Turbine Engine Program as well as a 20 mm gun, he said.

Future aircraft will also require a Modular Open System Architecture. The general envisioned it to have something similar to how smartphones can easily receive and complete updates every few weeks.

“We think this is absolutely critical because we want to be able to field new capabilities very quickly into our aircraft of the future,” he said.

As a former OH-58 Kiowa pilot, McConville said it took too long to make updates on the reconnaissance helicopter.

“You would have to rewrite the entire code and flight test it,” he said. “It was a big deal just to change a screen thing, which we should be able to do in seconds.”

While modernization efforts may affect other programs, the general said that change is necessary.

If senior leaders in the 1970s and 1980s failed to modernize the force, he said, soldiers would still be flying AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters instead of Apaches and UH-1 Huey utility helicopters instead of Black Hawks.

“We must modernize the Army,” he said. “We’re at that critical time right now and we feel that with the modernization priorities, the National Defense Strategy, where we see the world evolving, we must do that.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Navy to fire electro-magnetic rail gun at sea

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US Navy photo


The Navy plans to test-fire a deadly high-tech, long-range electromagnetic weapon against a floating target at sea later this year – as part of the fast-paced development of its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun.

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

In the upcoming test, the kinetic energy projectile will seek to hit, destroy or explode an at sea target from on-board the USNS Trenton, a Joint High Speed Vessel, service officials said.

The test shots, which will be the first of its kind for the developmental, next-generation weapon, will take place at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

During the test, the rail gun will fire a series of GPS-guided hypervelocity projectiles at a barge floating on the ocean about 25 to 50 nautical miles away,

The weapon will be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon, Navy officials said.

The Navy is developing the rail gun weapon for a wide range of at-sea and possible land-based applications, service officials added.

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YouTube

High-speed, long-distance electromagnetic weapons technology

The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.

The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.

The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.

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U.S. Navy

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.

The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.

While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.

Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers

Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.

The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.

The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year.

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USS Zumwalt, first of three commissioned DDG-1000 Destroyers | U.S. Navy

Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.

Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.

It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.

For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s cybersecurity No. 2 admits he doesn’t use computers

Japan’s recently appointed cybersecurity and Olympics minister has told parliament he has never used a computer in his life, though it’s his job to oversee cybersecurity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yoshitaka Sakurada, is the deputy chief of Japan’s vaunted cybersecurity strategy office and is also the minister in charge of the Olympic Games that Tokyo will host in 2020.

Depite these responsibilities, Sakurada has admitted that he has never used a computer, and is more or less baffled by the very idea of a USB drive and what it might do, according to a report the Guardian published on Nov. 14, 2018.

It all began October 2018.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted Sakurada, 68, to the joint posts in October 2018, despite his left-field selection having never held a Cabinet position before during his 18 years in Japan’s Diet or parliament.

It was in the Diet, on Wednesday however, Sakurada came clean and admitted he is not a big computer person.

According to local media, the newly appointed minister made the admission at a parliamentary committee meeting when an opposition politician asked Sakurada a fairly routine are-you-computer-literate question.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

His response catches in a nutshell concerns that some Japanese lawmakers are growing desperately out of touch in a rapidly aging nation.

“I’ve been independent since I was 25 and have always directed my staff and secretaries to do that kind of thing,” Sakurada replied.

“I’ve never used a computer.”

Sakurada was answering questions from Masato Imai, an independent Lower House lawmaker.

When pursued by the concerned lawmaker about how a man lacking computer skills could be in charge of cybersecurity, Sakurada said he was confident there would be no problems.

“It’s shocking to me that someone who hasn’t even touched computers is responsible for dealing with cybersecurity policies,” Imai said.

He also appeared confused by the question when asked about whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities.

Sakurada also said “he doesn’t know the details” when a member of the Democratic Party for the People, asked him about what measures he had in place against cyberattacks on Japan’s nuclear power plants.

The countdown may already be on for Sakurada in his official role.

According to the Japan Times this is not the first time Sakurada has been in hot water.

At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Sakurada stumbled and obfuscated when answering simple questions about his organizing committee’s three policy pillars for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and also the games’ budget.

The debate was punctuated with lengthy interruptions as the luckless minister turned to and relied almost entirely on his aides to answer the basic questions.

Sakurada apologized for his performance and the indignity to the Diet four days later.

He may not have gotten the email.

Featured image: toolstotal.com

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

5 ways to support veterans all year long

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian McNeal


Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.

But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?

While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.

But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.

So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.

1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.

2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.

3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.

4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.

5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.

There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Just ‘Greens’: Why the Army changed the name of new uniform

The U.S. Army‘s new uniform may look a lot like the iconic pinks-and-greens worn during World War II, but senior leaders decided to drop the pinks and go with Army Greens as the official name.

Pinks and greens “was a World War II nickname given to it by the soldiers because one of the sets of pants had a pink hue to them. So that is where it came from,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said recently.

The Army Greens, which will become the new service uniform in 2028, will feature taupe-colored pants and a green jacket.


The current blue Army Service Uniform, or ASU, will become the optional dress uniform and undergo a name change of its own, Dailey said.

Officials are working on the wear regulations for both uniforms. Once Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley approves them, the service will release All Army Activities, or ALARACT, messages online so soldiers can “click and see the updates to the new regulations,” Dailey said.

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Prototypes of the Army Greens uniform, shown above. Initial fielding of the new uniform is expected to occur in the summer of 2020.

(US Army photo by Ron Lee)

“So basically, we are dusting off old regulations. We will take a look at them. We have a few more decisions we have to present to the chief of staff before we can publish those,” he said, adding that the regulation on the ASU will include a new name for the uniform. “It will not be called the Army Service Uniform anymore. It will probably go back to the dress blues.”

The ASU became mandatory for wear in 2014, replacing the Army dress green uniform, which saw 61 years of service.

The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Troops will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform at that time.

The next step, though, will be to issue the new uniform to about 200 recruiters who will wear the Army Greens for a few months and then provide feedback for possible last-minute changes to the final design, officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

An audio recording of the high-pitched sound that American intelligence officials believe caused U.S. diplomats in Cuba brain damage was released Thursday afternoon.


The Associated Press released the first publicly disseminated recording October 12th. The first of many audio recordings taken in Cuba has led U.S. intelligence operatives to believe the Cuban government is using an unknown sonic device to attack Americans and other foreigners on the island.

The U.S. Navy is currently investigating the strange recording, hoping to glean some information about what is harming American diplomats in Cuba.

Victims often described a sound similar to chirping crickets before experiencing any symptoms, but not all of the attacks have produced an audible sound. Some were described as inaudible, which is causing some concern among investigators who believe the attackers are developing, or even already employing, more sophisticated methods.

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The US flag flaps in the stiff breeze off the Florida Straits at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. Photo from US State Department.

The U.S. has confirmed 21 cases, and American intelligence operatives incurred arguably the worst damage reported thus far. U.S. spies have suffered brain damage, unrelenting hearing loss and other severe outcomes.

Reports of ongoing, mysterious attacks befalling U.S.-government personnel and other foreign citizens in Cuba are complete “nonsense” and “without evidence,” Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Sunday.

“Some unnamed officials are propagating unusual nonsense without any evidence, with the perverse aim of discrediting the impeccable reputation of our country as a safe destination for foreign visitors, including from the United States,” Diaz-Canel, the likely successor to Cuban President Raúl Castro, said Sunday.

Castro has also rejected any notion that the Cuban government is behind the attacks.

The U.S. Department of State has responded to the reported attacks, ordering all nonessential personnel in Cuba to evacuate the island. The State Department also issued a travel warning for all Americans not to visit the island nation until the attacks are resolved.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what a dishonorable discharge meant for Bowe Bergdahl

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received his sentence after pleading guilty to charges stemming from his 2009 capture by the Taliban. While he is receiving no prison time, he has been given a dishonorable discharge.


At first, it may sound like he’s gotten off very lightly, given that he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and the fact that, according to the Washington Times, he endangered the fellow soldiers in his unit. According to the Manual for Courts Martial, the death penalty is a potential punishment for both of those charges.

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Former Navy SEAL James Hatch, who searched for Bergdahl after his disappearance and testified during the trial. (Photo from Facebook.)

However, the dishonorable discharge is actually going to follow Bergdahl for the rest of his life. It is such a severe consequence that it can only be imposed by a general court martial, and even then, only after conviction for certain crimes.

Related: Bergdahl receives dishonorable discharge – but no prison time

According to Lawyers.com, this discharge wipes out any and all military and veteran benefits for Bergdahl. That means no access to the GI Bill for further education, no VA home loans, no VA medical benefits. Bergdahl gets none of these benefits.

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themilitarywallet.com

In addition, according to 18 USC 922(g), Bergdahl is now prohibited from owning any sort of firearm or ammunition. Even one pistol round could land him 10 years in the federal slammer (see 18 USC 924).

In addition, GettingHired.com notes that a dishonorable discharge is entered into law-enforcement databases. Furthermore, that site pointed out that Bergdahl will probably face “significant problems securing employment in civilian society.”

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Observation post Mest-Malak, where Bergdahl was stationed before leaving his post. (Photo from Reddit user OnlyBoweKnows.)

In short, Bowe Bergdahl may be a free man in that he is serving no prison time, but he has lost out on a lot of benefits, has lost his Second Amendment rights, and will be facing strong public backlash for the rest of his life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Cavalry redlegs slam ISIS with artillery fire

“Standby. FIRE!”

A deafening explosion followed the commands as a 155mm artillery round exited the tube of an M777A2 during Operation Swift, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.

Troopers from the Field Artillery Squadron “Steel,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” conducted a gun raid to provide supporting fires for Operation Swift — a series of artillery and airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Makhmour Mountains.


Operation Swift was the first artillery raid conducted in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, and demonstrated the Coalition’s capability to provide dynamic fires in support of the Iraqi Security Forces.

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U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment execute nighttime fire missions with an M777A2 howitzer during a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)

“Doing the first artillery raid, having never air assaulted a howitzer in theater, was a great experience,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Palumbo, platoon leader. “It taught us just how light we could personally pack and helped us identify the feasibility of transporting a Howitzer with rotary-wing assets,” said Palumbo.

High explosive charges echoed across Camp Swift night and day as the fire direction center meticulously choreographed the fire missions with airstrikes on multiple ISIS weapons caches and hiding spots throughout the mountains.

“It felt as if we were moving mountains before the mission,” said Palumbo. “Now, we have identified friction points and know how to execute future missions with increased lethality.”

The barrages of artillery fire were intended to destroy resources of ISIS fighters and send a message that no enemy location was safe from the lethality of the entire coalition force.

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U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load and elevate an M777A2 howitzer during nighttime fire missions for a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)

“It was interesting being part of the first artillery raid, and doing an artillery mission in combat like we would during home station training,” said Spc. Deavon Shafer, ammunition team chief.

During the onset of Operation Swift, Steel troopers both observed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on known ISIS positions, and reinforced those fires with their own M777A2 howitzer that was air assaulted into position.

The artillery raid was a proof of concept to pass onto future artillery units in theater and a demonstration of the partnership between the ISF and Brave Rifles Troopers in the fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq.

When not firing, they trained with the 3rd Federal Police Division soldiers at Camp Swift on the unique weapons systems of both units and conducted artillery training with soldiers of the 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi FEDPOL Artillery Battalion.

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A trooper with the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, connects a sling leg from an M777A2 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook before executing a gun raid mission with Ira-qi Security Forces in Iraq, Dec. 16, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)

“The training felt the same as training we do internally — we learned something new,” said Spc. Kevin Mahan, M777A2 gunner.

Operation Swift was the first of its kind in theater and will not be the last.

“Task Force Steel executed the artillery raid in conjunction with fixed wing airstrikes to mass joint fires in the Makhmour Mountains and continue the physical and psychological degradation of ISIS,” said Maj. Simon Welte, squadron executive officer. “Our operational tempo remains high against ISIS and this raid serves as another example to our ISF and Kurdish Security Force partners that we are committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”

Brave Rifles Troopers are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS. Brave Rifles Troopers will eventually be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division, and the Steel Sqdn. has paved the way for future missions.

Bastogne soldiers will continue to provide support to the ISF and deliver massed fires utilizing a variety of firepower to defeat ISIS’s combat power and ideology.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Monkeying around? Iranians ridicule official for posting Halloween costume as astronaut’s suit

Iranians are making fun of an Iranian official for posting a picture of an astronaut suit adorned with an Iranian flag that seems to be a photoshopped version of a children’s Halloween space costume.


Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi issued the image on February 4 with the hashtag #bright_future. Without any explanation at the time, it was unclear if he was trying to fool people into believing it was an actual Iranian-issue space suit or just a joke.

Azari Jahromi’s vague tweet was quickly met with derision, criticism, and humorous memes by Iranians on social media amid allegations the minister was, in fact, trying to trick his countrymen into believing the image was an actual suit for the government’s ambitious but not-ready-for-prime-time space program.

He later clarified that the image was “the picture of a dream, the dream of walking on the moon.” He added that he found the many jokes posted online to be “interesting.”

Speaking at a Tehran event titled Space Technologists’ Gathering, Azari Jahromi said his tweet “was the introduction to good news.”

“The suit wasn’t really important because we haven’t made an Iranian space suit, yet work is being done to create a special outfit for Iranian space scientists,” he backpedaled.

That didn’t stop the torrent of jokes.

“He bought a Halloween space costume [for] , removed [the] NASA logo while sewing an Iranian flag on it. He’s promoting it as a national achievement,” a user said in reaction to the image.

Some posted memes to mock the minister, including a video of an astronaut dancing to Iranian music with the hashtag #The_Dance_of_Iranians_In_space #Bright_future.

Another user posted a photoshopped photo of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin wearing the suit Azari Jahromi had posted on Twitter.

Azari Jahromi — an avid Twitter user who’s been blacklisted by Washington for his role in censoring the Internet in Iran, where citizens are blocked from using Twitter and other social-media sites — has been promoting Iran’s space program in recent days while announcing that Tehran will launch a satellite, Zafar (“Victory” in Persian), into orbit by the end of the week.

Azari Jahromi said on February 4 that his country had taken the first step in the quest to send astronauts into space. “The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has ordered manufacturing five space capsules for carrying humans to space to the Aerospace Research Center of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology,” he was quoted as saying on February 4 by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Iran had two failed satellite launches in January and February of last year and a third attempt later in the year resulted in the explosion of a rocket on the launch pad.

But Azari Jahromi said on Twitter on February 3 that Tehran was not afraid of failure and that “we will not lose hope” of having a successful space program.

Do Monkeys Get Space Suits?

Iran does have a recent history of sending creatures into orbit, much to the consternation of animal-rights activists around the world.

In 2010, a Kavoshgar-3 rocket was launched by Iran with a rodent, two turtles, and several worms into suborbital space and they reportedly returned to Earth alive.

A Kavoshgar-5 carrying a monkey was launched into suborbital space in 2011 but it was said to have failed, though there was no information about the unidentified monkey on board.

Iran sent another monkey up on a Pishgam capsule two years later that it said was successful. However, no timing or location of the launch was ever announced, leaving many to doubt it had taken place. A second monkey, named Fargam, was said to have made a similar trip into suborbital space nearly a year later.

Iran’s planned satellite launch this week comes amid heightened tensions with the United States, which has accused the Islamic republic of using its space program as a cover for missile development.

Iranian officials maintain their space activities do not violate United Nations resolutions and that there is no international law prohibiting such a program.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.

In early January, the United States assassinated Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack. Tehran retaliated a few days later by launching a missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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