ISRO planning to launch five communications satellites this year
The first of the five satellites, GSAT-9, is scheduled to launch in April on an Indian GSLV, and will be followed by four more through December.
Two of the satellites, GSAT-17 and -11, will launch on Ariane 5 rockets, while the rest will launch on Indian vehicles.
The new satellites will provide a “drastic, perceptible change in satellite capacity,” according to ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar. [The Hindu]
SpaceX is set to attempt the first launch of a Falcon 9 with a previously flown first stage tonight. The Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch from Launch Complex 39A at 6:27 p.m. Eastern at the beginning of a two-and-a-half-hour window, with a backup launch date of Saturday. Forecasts call for an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather for tonight’s launch. The Falcon 9 is carrying the SES-10 communications satellite, which will provide broadcasting services across Latin America. The first stage being used for this launch first flew on a Dragon cargo mission launched last April. [Spaceflight Now]
Issues with the Orion service module and tornado damage to a NASA facility are the key schedule risks for the first SLS mission. NASA officials said Wednesday that delays with the European Service Module are running “neck and neck” with those caused by damage to the Michoud Assembly Facility from a February tornado as the biggest risks to the schedule for the EM-1 flight. The tornado damage, agency officials told an advisory committee, cost two to three months of schedule on development of the core stage of the SLS. While EM-1 was planned for launch in late 2018, NASA acknowledged the schedule is uncertain as it studies putting a crew on that flight, which would delay the mission regardless of the other issues. [SpaceNews]
Launch companies said this week they supported a spaceflight bill in the British parliament, but said a goal of hosting launches by 2020 was unrealistic. The draft bill, released last month, is intended to support the development of launch sites in the U.K., with the goal of hosting suborbital and small orbital launches by 2020. However, executives with several companies told a House of Commons committee that such a schedule was not feasible, while adding that they supporting the overall aims of the bill. [SpaceNews]
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos offered a “sneak peek” inside the crew capsule of his company’s suborbital vehicle. Bezos, in an email newsletter Wednesday, released several illustrations of the crew capsule of the New Shepard vehicle, including an interior with “an eye toward precision engineering, safety, and comfort.” Bezos said a mockup of the crew capsule will be displayed next week at Space Symposium, along with the booster that flew five suborbital test flights in 2015 and 2016. Also Wednesday, the National Aeronautic Association announced it was awarding its prestigious Collier Trophy to Blue Origin for its New Shepard test flight campaign. [SpaceNews / GeekWire]
A New Mexico company has unveiled plans for a small satellite launch vehicle. ARCA Space Corporation said this week it’s developing the Haas 2CA rocket, a single-stage vehicle it says can place 100 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The company said the rocket will be ready for launch by 2018, with a launch costing about $1 million, but has not disclosed any customers. ARCA Space had its origins in Romania as a team competing for the original Ansari X Prize but moved a few years ago to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The company made headlines in 2015 when it announced the ArcaBoard, a “hoverboard,” that costs about $15,000 but only operates for several minutes. [Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News]
Analysts using commercial satellite imagery believe North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test. Images taken by DigitalGlobe satellites March 25 showed increased activity at a site in the northeastern part of the country previously used for underground nuclear tests. The activity, according to an analysis by 38 North, is consistent with preparations for another test. [Wall Street Journal / 38 North]
An asteroid is playing a dangerous game of “chicken” with the planet Jupiter. Observations of the asteroid, 2015 BZ509, show it’s moving in the opposite direction around the sun compared to the planets and most other asteroids, and is in a orbit that brings it close to Jupiter. “This is not what one would expect to be a very long-lived situation,” said one astronomer, but added that an analysis of its orbit indicates it should be stable for at least the next million years. [Space.com]