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​The first GPS III satellite is slated to launch on Dec. 18, 2018, from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. It will be the first National Security Space launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Lockheed Martin artist rendering.

​GPS III Will Be First National Security Mission Aboard SpaceX Falcon 9

The Air Force and its industry partners are ready for the Dec. 18 launch of the first GPS III satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, officials told reporters on Friday. The historic mission will not only be the first of the next-generation navigational satellites on orbit, it also marks the first National Security Space mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the first satellite to do launch and control checkout with the service’s new ground control system, known as OCX Block Zero, which was delivered to the Air Force in November 2017 after a years-long delay. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Pentagon, State Won’t Change Approach to Saudi Arabia Following Senate Vote

The Pentagon and State Department have “great respect” for the Senate’s Thursday vote opposing US military assistance to Saudi Arabia, but the departments have no intention of changing their current operations. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during a Friday press conference with their Canadian counterparts, said the Senate vote doesn’t change their approach, but the departments will continue to brief Capitol Hill on why US policy is to support Saudi Arabia. The Senate on Thursday voted 58-41 to end US support to Saudi Arabia following the murder of a Washington Post journalist and continued reports of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Pompeo said Friday the continued support is required to oppose Iran and protect US interests in the region. Mattis said the US is working with the UN in a “strategic approach” to end a war that has “gone on too long.” The House has not yet taken up similar legislation. —Brian Everstine

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ATAC Pilot Expected to Make Full Recovery After Wednesday Crash

Airborne Tactical Advantage Company’s pilot, Matthew Pothier, is expected to fully recover from injuries obtained when his Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed Wednesday off the coast of Hawaii, company officials said. “Matt suffered ejection-related injuries and was taken to a local hospital in Honolulu. We are encouraged by his condition and spirits, and he should be released within two to three days,” John Zentner, ATAC’s director of business development, told Air Force Magazine on Friday afternoon. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Former EUCOM Boss Calls for Increased, Permanent US Presence in Poland

The US military should expand and make permanent its presence in Eastern Europe to increase deterrence and be able to more quickly respond to a contingency in the region, the former head of US European Command and a former NATO leader proposed this week. Retired USAF Gen. Philip Breedlove, who commanded EUCOM and NATO forces until 2016, said in a report published Thursday by the Atlantic Council that US allies face a “formidable and evolving adversary” and Russian threats are unlikely to end. While the current US presence is largely rotational, making a permanent presence has become “timely and urgent.” Specifically, Breedlove and former NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow propose a series of steps, including upgrading the US Mission Command in Poland to a division headquarters to ensure enhanced flow of US reinforcements in the region. For the Air Force, the authors propose enlarging and making permanent the detachment of C-130s and F-16s at Lask Air Base in Poland, making permanent the MQ-9 detachment at Miroslawiec Air Base, and committing to a higher level of exercises. This is in addition to more deployments of US Army brigades, special forces groups, US Navy ships, and equipment such as artillery and missile defense systems. —Brian Everstine

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Air University, Innovation Hub Launch Challenge Aimed at Space Simulation

Air University and MGMWERX, the Air Force’s innovation hub in Montgomery, Ala., this month launched a challenge to crowdsource ideas for a mobile application to train space mission sets. The challenge, which runs through Jan. 4, calls for a mobile-friendly app that uses simulations and gamification to teach space lift, orbital mechanics, operational implications of orbit type, and satellite constellation design, according to a MGMWERX news release. The challenge is targeted to programmers, software developers, academics, small businesses, and large corporations, among others. The submissions will be reviewed and then down-selected to participate in a currently unscheduled “Design Sprint” final selection. If selected, participants can secure funding for a prototype and experimentation, secure a contract, or promote their work with the Air Force, the release states.

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