Space 

Rocket Lab postpones Electron launch to early 2018

WASHINGTON — Stymied by poor weather and technical glitches, including one that aborted a launch just two seconds before liftoff, Rocket Lab said Dec. 16 it will delay its next Electron launch attempt until early 2018. In a statement, the company said it had corrected the latest problem to postpone the launch, a power fault that scrubbed a launch attempt Dec. 14 (U.S. time) from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. However, it said, “with only one day remaining in the launch window Rocket Lab has made…

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Space 

NASA planning to purchase Earth science data from commercial smallsat systems

NEW ORLEANS — NASA expects to purchase Earth science data from constellations of commercial satellites early next year to see how useful they are in meeting the agency’s research needs. NASA issued a request for information (RFI) Dec. 5 seeking details from companies that have such constellations and are interested in selling data to the agency. The deadline for responses is Dec. 22. “What we are recognizing is that many of you in the private sector have fielded constellations of small satellites for your own business reasons,” said Michael Freilich,…

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Space 

Germany picks Ariane 5 for Heinrich Hertz launch

WASHINGTON — German satellite builder OHB Systems has secured a slot for the experimental Heinrich Hertz communications satellite on what could be one of the last Ariane 5 missions before Ariane 6 is expected to take over. The launch, arranged on behalf of the German space agency DLR, is slated for late 2021 or early 2022 — a  transitional period during which Arianespace plans to launch a mix of Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 rockets while the newer vehicle gains acceptance. The first flight of the Ariane 6 is scheduled…

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Space 

UK hopes new $132 million satellite testing plant will assuage Brexit concerns for space industry

HARWELL, United Kingdom — A 99 million pound ($132 million) satellite test facility to be built at the U.K.’s Harwell Campus should bring more business to the space hub here and ensure Britain’s satellite manufacturers can carry on without disruption post-Brexit, according to Chris Mutlow, director of RAL Space, the space division of the U.K. state-run Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The RAL Space-operated National Satellite Test Facility, once it opens three years from now, will be able to test satellites as large as 7 metric tons, and aims to attract commercial…

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Space 

SpaceX launches Dragon on reused Falcon 9

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station Dec. 15 on the first use of a previously-flown first stage for a NASA mission. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:36 a.m. Eastern. It placed the Dragon spacecraft, flying on a mission designated SpX-13, into orbit 10 minutes after liftoff. The Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station early Dec. 17. The launch was the first Dragon…

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Space 

Thales Alenia working with three companies on Deep Space Gateway concepts

WASHINGTON — Thales Alenia Space is partnering with three U.S. companies that are working on NASA studies of concepts for the proposed Deep Space Gateway, leveraging its expertise in space station and cargo module development. Thales announced Dec. 14 that Boeing was the latest company it was working with as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 effort. Thales has previously also been working with Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK. Thales did not disclose the value of the individual contracts with the three companies. For all…

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Space 

Ominous signs for defense, aerospace industries as Congress scrambles to fund government

AIA CEO Melcher: The defense drawdown has resulted in lost suppliers, changes in competition, market structure, and industrial base turmoil. WASHINGTON — A protracted battle over federal spending priorities shows no sign of resolution. Unstable budget cycles have become the norm in a deeply divided Washington, although so far the impact on the economy has not been noticeable. The unpredictability of funding, however, is taking a toll on industries that heavily depend on government work. The leader of the influential trade association that represents the U.S. aerospace and defense industry…

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Space 

ESA tasks Airbus with streamlining  Copernicus data access

LONDON — Airbus has signed a contract with the European Space Agency to develop a Copernicus Data and Information Access Services, or DIAS, platform that will make data from the Earth-monitoring constellation more accessible to users from about mid-2018. According to Airbus spokesman Jeremy Close, the contract is worth more the 10 million euros. Airbus will be one of four DIAS providers, with each provider developing a separate platform using different software but the same data, according to Close. Airbus cooperates on the development with its subcontractors including network operator…

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Space 

SpaceIL making final fundraising push for lunar lander mission

WASHINGTON — SpaceIL, the Israeli team in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, says it needs to raise $7.5 million in less than a week in order to complete its lander and retain its launch contract. The nonprofit organization says it has identified $22.5 million of the $30 million of total funding it needs to raise to complete and launch its lunar lander in the form of matching funds, but those funds are contingent on raising $7.5 million by Dec. 20, the end of the Hanukkah holiday. “We’ve made good…

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Space 

Dawn to fly closer to Ceres than ever in mission’s final phase

NEW ORLEANS — NASA’s Dawn mission to the main asteroid belt, granted a second extended mission earlier this year, will end later next year after a final set of close-up observations of the dwarf planet Ceres. NASA approved a second extended mission for Dawn Oct. 19, electing to keep the spacecraft in orbit around Ceres versus proposals to send the spacecraft out of orbit to flyby another asteroid. Dawn, in this new extended mission, will shift into an elliptical orbit in 2018 to provide much closer views of the surface…

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