SpaceX still plans for first flight of a Falcon 9 with reused first stage this month
That launch, of the SES-10 satellite, is planned before the end of March, company president Gwynne Shotwell said Wednesday.
Five more previously flown boosters are also planned for launch later this year.
The company’s next launch, of the EchoStar 23 satellite, has slipped by at least two days to no earlier than March 14 after delays in a planned static-fire test. [Bloomberg / Spaceflight Insider]
NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said he thinks NASA will do “fairly well” in the administration’s upcoming budget request despite concerns about potential cuts. Speaking at the Goddard Memorial Symposium Wednesday, Lightfoot did not discuss details about the 2018 budget, but said that he thinks “NASA has done okay” in that proposal. A high-level version of the budget, due out next week, is expected to cut $54 billion from non-defense discretionary spending to offset an increase in defense spending. Speaking later at the symposium, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said he didn’t know details about NASA’s budget but thought “there’s little room for hope” NASA will do better than other agencies, like NOAA, rumored to be facing significant cuts. [SpaceNews]
Blue Origin has signed a deal with OneWeb for five New Glenn Launches. Blue Origin said Wednesday that OneWeb had agreed to at least five launches, but didn’t specify a schedule for those launches or other terms of the deal. OneWeb General Manager Scott Sprague said at the Satellite 2017 conference that the agreement gives the company options for launching either satellites in its initial constellation or a larger follow-on system. Blue Origin announced its first customer for New Glenn, Eutelsat, on Tuesday. [SpaceNews]
Satellite manufacturers don’t yet know how policies of the new Trump administration will affect their businesses. Executives of several satellite manufacturers said at Satellite 2017 Wednesday that, while increased defense spending could benefit domestic manufacturers, they also run the risk of protectionist trade policies that could hurt their ability to sell internationally. Also of concern is the future of the Ex-Im Bank, which had been used increasingly by satellite manufacturers but which the administration is reportedly considering to eliminate. [SpaceNews]
One satellite manufacturer expects that the market for commercial satellites to remain weak in 2017.Boeing executives said this week they expected 14 to 17 commercial satellite orders industry-wide in 2017, up only slightly from 13 in 2016, the lowest annual total since 2004. Launch delays have been one reason for decreased orders, as well as decisions by some companies to revisit their plans for high-throughput satellites in reaction to the ViaSat-3 system that ViaSat is developing. [SpaceNews]
International Launch Services is making changes to its lineup of Proton vehicles. The company announced this week that they are developing a five-meter payload fairing that will be available starting in 2020. The company is also making changes to the design of lighter versions of the Proton it announced last year, including putting work on the smaller of the two, the Proton Light, on hold. The company is proceeding with the Proton Medium, which will be ready for launch in late 2018. [SpaceNews]
The Air Force is considering bringing in commercial operators as partners in its Wideband Global Satcom system. Maj. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said a request for proposals will soon be released, seeking bids from companies to support WGS operations. That could eventually include having those companies operate the satellites from their own facilities, rather than the Air Force’s. Thompson said the Air Force is interested in such commercial partnerships given their benefits in efficiency and effectiveness, although there are legal and policy obstacles such partnerships have to overcome. [SpaceNews]
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is working with two companies to use satellite data to track activities in the Arctic. Ball Aerospace is combining maritime traffic data from Spire Global’s network of small satellites with other data sources to give NGA a visual representation of the maritime traffic that includes detailed vessel activity profiles. The effort, company executives say, is the latest sign of the government’s interest in using data from small satellite constellations to augment traditional satellite and other data resources. [SpaceNews]
Facebook is willing to work with the satellite industry to lower the cost of satellite user equipment. A Facebook official, Wesley Wong, said at the Satellite 2017 conference that the company continues to see satellites as an effective way to provide connectivity in underserved regions of the world, despite suffering a setback with the loss of the Amos-6 satellite last year, which Facebook had leased with Eutelsat. Wong said that standardizing satellite user equipment is key to lowering costs and making the technology more accessible. [SpaceNews]
Satellite companies are split about whether imagery will be the “killer app” for small satellites. Some developers of remote sensing constellations believe there will be a market for people who want to buy timely and inexpensive images that meet their needs. Other developers, though, think that such imagery will need to be combined with other data sources to create information products that can break through in the market. [SpaceNews]
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is becoming increasing useful to satellite manufacturers. Space Systems Loral said this week that its most complex 3D-printed part, an antenna tower, is performing as planned on a communications satellite launched in December. Boeing said it is using 50 to 60 3D-printed parts on some satellites that are awaiting launch, in particular complex brackets and fittings that would be difficult to build with traditional machining techniques. [SpaceNews]
Ron Drever, one of the pioneers of gravitational wave astronomy, has passed away. The 85-year-old physicist died Tuesday after a brief illness. Drever is considered one of the co-founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), alongside Rai Weiss and Kip Thorne. Scientists announced last year the first direct detection of gravitational waves using LIGO. [BBC]
A new internship program has selected its first class of three dozen women who will work in aerospace companies this summer. The Brooke Owens Fellowship Program offers paid internships and mentoring to college students at a wide range of space companies and related organizations. The program, named after Brooke Owens, a young woman in the aerospace business who passed away last year, is intended to help encourage women to enter, and stay in, the industry. [Ars Technica]