Google Lunar X Prize competitor picks student experiment to fly to the Moon
Team Indus announced Wednesday that Space4Life, a student team from Naples, won the the Lab2Moon competition and will fly its experiment on the lander.
Space4Life plans to test the ability of cyanobacteria to serve as a radiation shield.
A second experiment from an Indian university will also fly on the lander, sponsored by an Indian biopharmaceutical company.
Team Indus plans to launch its lander late this year in a bid to win the Google Lunar X Prize. [The Hindu]
The Trump administration seeks to cancel NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and several Earth science missions in its budget proposal. The fiscal year 2018 budget “blueprint,” released Thursdaymorning, proposes $19.1 billion for NASA, down one percent from the nearly $19.3 billion it received in 2016. The blueprint proposes cancelling ARM and four Earth science missions, and also shutting down NASA’s Office of Education. The budget proposal would provide additional funding for NASA’s planetary science program, but would not allocate any money to a proposed Europa lander mission. The overall cut in NASA’s budget is far less than other agencies, which would receive cuts in some cases in excess of 30 percent over 2016 levels. The administration is expected to release its full 2018 budget proposal by early May. [SpaceNews]
SpaceX successfully launched the EchoStar 23 communications satellite early this morning. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 2 a.m. Eastern and deployed EchoStar 23 into geostationary transfer orbit 34 minutes later. The launch was delayed slightly by high winds. EchoStar 23 will be used by EchoStar Corp. to provide direct broadcast services for Brazil from 45 degrees west in geostationary orbit. [SpaceNews]
SpaceX won a GPS 3 launch contract this week largely because of price. The Air Force told reporters Wednesday that SpaceX offered a lower price than an unspecified competitor. United Launch Alliance is the only other company that was eligible to bid on the launch. This award, and another GPS 3 launch contract SpaceX won last year, are the first of 15 “Phase 1A” launches being competed by the Air Force, and officials said they believe both SpaceX and ULA can be competitive on bids for future launches. [SpaceNews]
Buzz Aldrin said that Vice President Pence didn’t reveal much about the administration’s space policy plans in a meeting last week. Aldrin, in an interview earlier this week, described his March 10 meeting with Pence as “very friendly, very satisfying,” but said that Pence was not in a position to endorse a vision for human missions to Mars, or other space policy plans. Pence is expected to take a major role in space policy in the White House, including leading a reconstituted National Space Council. [SpaceNews]
AsiaSat believes that rapidly growing economies will offset concerns about satellite overcapacity. The Hong Kong-based satellite operator reported Wednesday a three percent decrease in revenue in 2016, which the company said was caused by the end of a short-term contract on a satellite in an inclined orbit. The company said that projected growth rates in China, India and other nations in south and southeast Asia will create continued demand for satellite services, easing current concerns about a glut of satellite capacity in a crowded market. [SpaceNews]
Lockheed Martin won a $15 million modification to its contract for the SBIRS missile warning satellite program. The modification covers enhanced “cyber capabilities” for the satellite’s ground systems, including cybersecurity. Neither the Air Force nor Lockheed Martin disclosed additional details about the work funded by the contract modification. [SpaceNews]
Airbus plans to add a third node to the European Data Relay System (EDRS) communications network. The company says it’s planning a 2020 or 2021 launch of the EDRS-D satellite, providing coverage over the Asia Pacific region. ERDS-D will join EDRS-A and the future EDRS-C satellite to provide near global coverage, relaying data from Earth science satellites in low Earth orbit. EDRS, also known as the SpaceDataHighway, uses laser links to provide much greater bandwidth than traditional systems. [SpaceNews]
A cubesat launched last month by a Swiss-Israeli company is now conducting microgravity experiments. SpacePharma says its DIDO cubesat, one of more than 100 launched on an Indian rocket a month ago, has completed its first set of experiments. The satellite contains four pharmaceutical experiments designed for operation in microgravity. The company plans to launch a second satellite with additional experiments in August. [Reuters]
The first woman in space is optimistic more Russian women will get an opportunity to become cosmonauts. Valentina Tereshkova told reporters covering the opening of an exhibition in her honor in London this week that she believed “we have a good prospect” of sending more Russian women into space. Tereshkova, who turned 80 earlier this month, made history with her 1963 spaceflight, but only three Russian women have flown since. [TASS]