Elon Musk not enthusiastic about NASA authorization bill
In a pair of late-night tweets, the founder and CEO of SpaceX said the bill “changes nothing” about NASA’s activities and does not provide any additional funding for human Mars exploration.
“Perhaps there will be some future bill that makes a difference for Mars, but this is not it,” he wrote.
The act does require NASA to create a detailed plan for human space exploration culminating in human missions to Mars in the 2030s, but as an authorization bill does not provide any funding for the agency. [CNET]
As President Trump signed the new NASA authorization bill Tuesday, Vice President Pence confirmed plans to reestablish the National Space Council. In comments at the end of a signing ceremony for the bill at the White House, Pence said that Trump will sign an order setting up the council “in very short order,” to be led by Pence. The council, an interagency body for coordinating space policy issues, was last active in the administration of President George H.W. Bush a quarter-century ago. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who attended the signing ceremony, said later that he was “thrilled” that the administration was standing up the council, identifying several issues that he believes the council should address. [SpaceNews]
An Ariane 5 launch remains on hold because of labor unrest in French Guiana. Arianespace postponed the launch of two communications satellites for the second straight day Tuesday when it was unable to move the Ariane 5 to the launch pad. The protests are tied to working and living conditions in Kourou, the town that is home to the launch site. Protestors are concerned that a local hospital, whose board of directors includes a representative of the French space agency CNES, will be privatized. The launch is now planned for no earlier than Thursday, assuming the rocket can be moved to the pad today. [SpaceNews]
Small launch vehicle developer Rocket Lab has raised an additional $75 million. The U.S.-New Zealand company said the money will go towards scaling up production of its Electron small rocket, including opening a new headquarters and manufacturing facility in California. With the new funding round, Rocket Lab has now raised $148 million and claims to have a valuation of more than $1 billion. The first launch of the Electron, from Rocket Lab’s launch site in New Zealand, is planned for the “coming months,” with five to seven launches planned for 2017. [SpaceNews]
A missile-warning satellite launched earlier this year is now operational. Lockheed Martin said Tuesdaythat the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO 3 satellite, launched in January, has transmitted its first image. The launch of the satellite was postponed by several months because of concerns about an issue with the satellite’s orbit-raising engine, but no problems were found. The fourth SBIRS satellite is planned for launch in November. [SpaceNews]
Vector Space Systems will announce plans this weekend to perform launches from Cape Canaveral.The company, developing a small launch vehicle, will erect a test version of its Vector-R small rocket at Launch Complex 46, and will later display it at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Vector is developing the rocket for launching small satellites, and is interested in using the Cape Canaveral pad for future launches. [Florida Today]
Wheels on the Curiosity Mars rover are showing additional signs of wear and tear. Recent images of the rover’s wheels showed breaks in treads, or grousers, on one of the six wheels. The wheels have previously suffered dents and holes, but this is the first time the treads have taken damage. Project officials said the wheels are still in good enough condition to take the rover to all the planned destinations for the remainder of its mission. [Space.com]
The Australian space community is calling on the government to establish a national space agency. In a white paper released this week, the Space Industry Association of Australia said a space agency would benefit the economy and education, and ensure that Australia is a developer of space capabilities, rather than just a customer of space applications. They hope this year’s International Astronautical Congress, to be held in September in Adelaide, will serve to focus attention on the issue and generate interest in creating the agency. [Cosmos]
Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft observed a landslide on a comet. Scientists said Tuesday that images of the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta during its two years at the comet revealed a variety of changes in its surface during that time. They include collapses of cliffs in two regions of the comet, and a large boulder that moved 140 meters because of either erosion of the surface or an outburst of dust and gas. Scientists also observed the growth of a large crack in the “neck” of the comet’s nucleus they believe is linked to a change in the comet’s rotation rate.