Iridium plans to launch four more sets of next-generation satellites this year

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Iridium plans to launch four more sets of next-generation satellites this year.

Iridium CEO Matt Desch said last week the next batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites is scheduled for launch June 29 on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Additional launches will follow in August, October and December, with the remaining satellites to be launched by mid-2018.

The first 10 Iridium Next satellites, launched in January, are performing well, with eight of them already placed into operation. [Spaceflight Now]


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SpaceX launched a National Reconnaissance Office payload Monday morning and successfully landed the first stage. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 7:15 a.m. Eastern on a mission designated NROL-76. Coverage of the launch ended as planned at payload fairing separation, but the rocket’s first stage did make a landing at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch was scheduled for Sunday but scrubbed at the last minute because of a faulty sensor on the first stage. [SpaceNews]

NASA will receive $19.65 billion in a fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill released early Monday. The bill provides NASA with $628 million above the original request made for 2017 by the Obama administration last year and $368 million above what the agency received in 2016. NASA’s exploration programs, including SLS and Orion, won significant increases over the original request, as did the agency’s planetary science program. The bill funds several programs, including a Europa lander and an Earth science mission, not included in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint issued in March. Congress is expected to pass the omnibus spending bill this week, before a continuing resolution currently funding the government expires Friday. [SpaceNews]

Intelsat says mobility users are among the first customers to make use if its new series of high-throughput satellites. Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler said in a call with investors last week that mobility customers have become “power users” of its Epic series of satellites, with other classes of customers, including enterprise and wireless service providers, taking longer to sign on for capacity on its three active Epic satellites. Spengler declined to comment on the company’s decision to extend a debt exchange deadline for bondholders, part of the process for Intelsat’s merger with OneWeb, from April 20 to May 10. [SpaceNews]

The founder of Virgin Galactic remains optimistic about the suborbital spaceflight company but won’t commit to a schedule. In an on-stage interview at the Washington Post Friday, Sir Richard Branson said, “I’ve made the mistake of giving dates before and being wrong.” When asked about reports that the company expects to begin commercial service next year, he replied, “That sounds good.” The second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane is in a test flight program now, with its most recent glide flight in late February. [SpaceNews]

A Navy communications satellite that suffered an engine problem after launch last year has now entered operations. The fifth Mobile User Objective System satellite suffered a problem with the orbit-raising engine after its June 2016 launch. Lockheed Martin, the satellite’s manufacturer, said last week that spacecraft engineers were able to place the MUOS-5 satellite into its final geostationary orbit “using alternative propulsion.” [Florida Today]

India plans to launch a satellite to provide communications for neighboring countries on Friday. The GSAT-9 satellite is scheduled for launch Friday on a Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark 2 rocket. The 2,230-kilogram satellite has 12 Ku-band transponders that India will offer as a gift to neighboring countries who are members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. One of the members of that organization, Pakistan, has declined the offer. [The Hindu]

The company that once planned a constellation of Earth imaging satellites has been acquired by a data analytics company. OmniEarth said last week it’s been acquired by EagleView, a company based in Washington state that extracts data from imagery, for an undisclosed sum. OmniEarth announced plans in 2014 for a constellation of 18 satellites that would provide “scientific-grade multispectral data” of the Earth on a daily basis, but later focused instead on analysis of images from other satellites. The deal is the third to involve a commercial remote sensing company in less than three months. [SpaceNews]

Members of the British Parliament are concerned poor legislation could halt the development of spaceports in the country. In a report published Saturday, a committee of the House of Commons said a proposed bill offered by the government appeared to overrule existing indemnification caps for spaceflight activities, and thus could expose companies operating from British spaceports to unlimited liability in the event of an accident. The committee recommended changes to the bill to address that concern, and whether the existing cap would apply on a per-launch or per-satellite basis. [The Guardian]

NASA has selected a camera to fly on a South Korean lunar orbiter mission. ShadowCam, developed by Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems, will map reflectance in permanently shadowed regions of craters at the lunar poles to look for evidence of ice deposits. The instrument will join four Korean-developed ones on the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter spacecraft, scheduled for launch in December 2018. [NASA]

The last member of an historic astronaut class has retired from NASA. Anna Fisher joined NASA as part of the 35-member class of 1978, the first to include women. Fisher flew on STS-51A shuttle mission in 1984, becoming the first mother to fly in space. Fisher took a leave of absence from NASA for several years to raise her family, returning in the mid-1990s to work on the International Space Station and Orion programs as well as serving as a capcom. [collectSPACE]

Lego’s Saturn 5 rocket kit is, like the real rocket, both big and expensive. Lego released details Fridayabout the kit, which will go on sale June 1. The kit, developed as part of the company’s “Ideas” program for crowdsourced projects, is the tallest Lego item developed, standing one meter tall. It has, appropriately enough, 1,969 pieces, including the rocket itself, Apollo spacecraft and lunar lander. The price? $119.99. [The Verge]