SpaceX delays Falcon 9 launch

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SpaceX’s next launch has slipped a day.

NASA said Wednesday that the Falcon 9 launch of a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station had been delayed from Sunday to Monday at 12:31 p.m. Eastern.

Neither NASA nor SpaceX disclosed the reason for the slip. With a launch Monday, the Dragon spacecraft will arrive at the station early Wednesday. [NASA]


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EchoStar has ordered an “ultra high density” broadband satellite from Space Systems Loral. The Jupiter-3/EchoStar-24 satellite, scheduled for launch in 2021, will provide 500 gigabits per second of capacity for broadband services in the Americas. EchoStar first mentioned plans for Jupiter-3 in February 2016, saying at the time that it expected to make an announcement about its plans for the satellite in a few months. SSL’s parent company, MDA Corp., hinted at the order in a recent earnings call when it mentioned a pending order for a $400 million satellite. [SpaceNews]

Industry experts believe that while there may be a bubble of smallsat companies today, the field itself is not a bubble in danger of bursting. In a panel session at the Conference on Small Satellites this week, executives and others involved with smallsat companies said there will inevitably be some consolidation among smallsat manufacturers and operators in the coming years, but that the industry’s fundamentals remained strong. While there has been a surge in venture capital funding for smallsat companies in recent years, some firms have avoided it to focus on slower but more sustainable growth. [SpaceNews]

A Swiss company has closed a $3 million seed round to support early development of a smallsat constellation. Airbus Ventures led the round for ELSE, a company developing a satellite system called Astrocast that will support Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications. ELSE is developing its first two satellites for launch next year, and later funding rounds will back the deployment of a constellation of 64 cubesats by 2021. [SpaceNews]

The smallsat market could be worth up to $30 billion in the next decade, according to a recent report. A study by Euroconsult concluded that as many as 6,200 small satellites will launch in the next decade, with a market value of $30.1 billion, compared to $8.7 billion in the previous decade. Much of that growth is linked to plans for a number of smallsat constellations. European satellite developers said that while they also saw growth in the market, many factors could keep the industry from growing as fast as the forecast estimates. [SpaceNews]

Sen. Bill Nelson praised the development of a commercial space industry on his state’s Space Coast.Nelson, speaking with reporters Wednesday at Blue Origin’s factory under construction next to the Kennedy Space Center, said the Cape Canaveral areas was “coming alive” with commercial activity by Blue Origin, OneWeb and SpaceX, among others. Nelson said that activity should lead to several launches a week from the area, perhaps two a day, in the foreseeable future. [Florida Today]

NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne tested another controller unit Wednesday for the engines that will power the Space Launch System. The RS-25 engine test at the Stennis Space Center successfully checked out the fourth in a series of engine controller units, the “brain” of the engine that has been upgraded from that used on the engines that flew on the shuttle. [Aerojet Rocketdyne]

NASA has selected several astrophysics mission proposals for further study. The agency said Wednesday it chose three missions for nine-month concept studies, valued at $2 million each, for its Medium-Class Explorer program. Those missions would perform x-ray astronomy, a near-infrared all-sky survey and spectroscopy of exoplanets. NASA also selected three smaller “missions of opportunity” for study; those involve instruments that would fly on high-altitude balloons, the space station or a proposed European mission. [NASA]

The moon may have had a magnetic field of its own far longer than previously thought. Scientists knew the moon had a magnetic field early in its history, but thought it disappeared about 3.5 billion years ago as the lunar interior cooled and shut down the dynamo there that powered it. Analysis of rocks returned from the Apollo 15 mission found evidence that the lunar magnetic field may have still been operating between 1 billion and 2.5 billion years ago. The finding suggests that exoplanets once considered too small to have a long-lasting magnetic field might be able to retain one, enhancing their habitability. [The Guardian]