Soyuz rocket delivers new crew to the ISS

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A Soyuz spacecraft delivered three new crew members to the International Space Station Friday.

The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 11:41 a.m. Eastern, docking with the station a little more than six hours later.

The Soyuz carried to the ISS Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, American astronaut Randy Bresnik and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

The three, who bring the station’s crew back up to six, will stay on the station until December. [CBS]


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MDA Corporation warned Friday of a substantially smaller market for commercial geostationary communications satellites in 2017. Howard Lance, president and CEO of MDA, said in an earnings call that the company was only expecting 10 to 12 GEO satellite orders across the industry in 2017, down from the 14 last year and an average in prior years of 20 or more. Lance said MDA-owned Space Systems Loral has not won any of the three satellite orders announced so far this year, but is in discussions with an unnamed customer for a high-throughput satellite that could be valued at more than $400 million. [SpaceNews]

The first launch of a privately-developed Japanese rocket failed Sunday. Interstellar Technologies launched its Momo rocket from a site on the island of Hokkaido on a suborbital test flight, intended to reach an altitude of 100 kilometers. However, the company said the vehicle’s engine shut down 80 seconds after liftoff when a communications link with the ground was disrupted. The rocket reached a peak altitude of 30 to 40 kilometers before splashing down in the ocean. The rocket is intended to carry microgravity research payloads, and the company plans to later develop a small satellite launch vehicle as well. [Jiji Press]

Russia has no plans, for now, to halt deliveries of RD-180 engines in response to new U.S. sanctions.Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview Saturday that Russia plans to continue delivering RD-180 engines, used by the Atlas 5, despite the passage of a Russian sanctions bill by the U.S. Congress. Russian President Vladimir Putin did announce Sunday plans to sharply reduce the staff at the U.S. Embassy in response to the sanctions bill. Rogozin added, though, that while Russia agreed with the U.S. that space should be above politics, “nothing lasts forever.” [TASS]

Delays in launching Iridium’s next-generation satellite constellation have led to the company to seek extensions on payments. The company’s chief financial officer said last week that Coface, the French export credit agency, has delayed $98 million in payments until March 2019, while satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space has deferred $100 million in payments until early 2019 as well. The third set of ten Iridium Next satellites are scheduled for launch on a Falcon 9 Sept. 30, with the fourth to follow in November. [SpaceNews]

A NASA report confirms that the agency could have put a crew on the first launch of the Space Launch System but concluded it could not afford to do so. NASA had announced in May that its study found that it could fly a crewed mission around the Moon on the EM-1 mission, but that it was not worth the additional risk and expense. A summary of that report, released by NASA last week, confirmed that assessment, but provided no significant new details. NASA currently plans to launch EM-1 without a crew some time in 2019. [BuzzFeed]

A report suggests the launch of a private Indian lunar lander will slip to 2018. An article in an Indian newspaper said that Team Indus’ lunar lander will be one of two Indian missions scheduled for launch in early 2018, along with the Chandrayaan-2 lander being developed by the Indian space agency ISRO. A delay to 2018 would mean that Team Indus would miss the deadline for winning the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize, which requires teams to launch by the end of this year. In an essay published Sunday, the leader of Team Indus said that it is still holding a launch date in late December for its mission, and that the team is “committing to keep trying until we have exhausted all possible options of winning the Grand Prize.” [The Times of India / Medium]

Rocket Lab is expected to release details about its first Electron test launch this week. The company, according to a report, plans to release this week the analysis of data collected during the first launch of its Electron rocket in May. That launch failed to reach orbit because of a problem with the rocket’s upper stage, although the initial phases of flight appeared to go as planned. The company has not announced a date for the second of three planned test flights of the rocket. [New Zealand Herald]

Virgin Orbit’s 747 aircraft will arrive at the company’s facilities in Long Beach, California, today. The airplane, a former Virgin Atlantic airliner known as “Cosmic Girl” modified to serve as the launch platform for the LauncherOne rocket, will fly into Long Beach Airport later today. Virgin Orbit, whose headquarters and manufacturing plant are adjacent to the airport, said the event is “an emotional milestone as much as a technical milestone” as the company edges closer to beginning tests of its small satellite launch system. [Long Beach Press-Telegram]

Scientists have found a chemical on Saturn’s moon Titan that could aid the formation of life there.Astronomers used data from the ALMA telescope in Chile to detect the presence of vinyl cyanide in the moon’s atmosphere. Astrobiologists have postulated that vinyl cyanide could be used to form the membranes of cell-like structures in the presence of liquid methane. Such structures could support the development of life even without access to liquid water. [Science News]

NASA has selected several proposals for Earth science missions for further study. NASA announced Friday it was funding proposals for five Heliophysics Small Explorer missions and two missions of opportunity for 11-month concept studies. Those missions are intended to “return transformational science about the sun and space environment,” filling in gaps between larger missions. NASA will select one or more of the small mission concepts for development next year. [NASA]

Thieves stole a solid-gold lunar lander replica from an Ohio museum Friday night. The model was taken from the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, and police in the town of Wapakoneta were still investigating the burglary. The lander replica, 13 centimeters tall, was one of three made by jeweler Cartier in 1969 and given to the crew of Apollo 11 on behalf of the readers of the French newspaper Le Figaro. The replica given to Michael Collins sold at auction in 2003 for $50,000. [collectSPACE]