Upper stage malfunction leaves Chinese satellite in lower-than-planned orbit
The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 12:12 p.m. Eastern carrying the Chinasat-9A satellite.
It was not until early Monday, though, that Chinese officials announced that the third stage of the rocket malfunctioned, leaving the satellite in a lower orbit than planned.
Officials did not provide additional details about the satellite’s orbit, but did state that the satellite had deployed its solar panels and was functioning normally.
The satellite carries a Ku-band payload and was planned to operate from 92 degrees east in GEO. [gbtimes]
SpaceX has postponed the launch of a Bulgarian communications satellite until Friday, setting up a “doubleheader” with a West Coast launch. SpaceX said Sunday it was delaying the Falcon 9 launch of BulgariaSat-1, previously scheduled for Monday, until at least Friday to replace a valve in the rocket’s payload fairing. SpaceX said that, despite the delay in this launch from Florida, it was still targeting a Sunday launch of 10 Iridium Next satellites on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. [Florida Today]
The Secretary of the Air Force confirmed plans Friday to establish a new space leadership position within the service. Heather Wilson said she approved an order Friday to establish a deputy chief of staff for space operations position on the Air Staff of the Air Force, to be operational by Aug. 1. The Air Force said in April it was planning to establish that position, but the move did not become official until Friday. The position, to be held by a three-star general, will oversee space operations and requirements and be an advocate for space within the Pentagon. [SpaceNews]
The White House has nominated the president and CEO of XCOR Aerospace to a top Pentagon position. The administration announced late Friday that it has nominated Jay Gibson to be Deputy Chief Management Officer within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a position responsible for management of business systems within the Defense Department. Gibson had been head of XCOR Aerospace, a developer of rocket engines and the Lynx suborbital spaceplane, since March 2015. During that time, the company halted work on Lynx to focus on engine work. [SpaceNews]
A French startup has raised $1.9 million to develop more efficient electric propulsion for small satellites. ThrustMe raised the money from Kima Ventures and angel investors in the U.S. and Europe to continue work on its electric propulsion system. The technology offers double the thrust of existing miniaturized electric propulsion systems at 40 percent the size. The funding will support a technology demonstration in the next 18 months. [SpaceNews]
The head of Boeing’s defense unit said a recent reorganization was intended to streamline its operations. Leanne Caret said the move, which breaks up Boeing Military Aircraft and Network & Space Systems into four smaller groups and eliminates nearly 50 executive positions, was intended to be about “taking out a layer of executive management” and “flattening the organization.” Caret, who became CEO of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security a little more than a year ago, said she made the moves now in part because it comes harder to make major changes the longer you stay in any position. [SpaceNews]
South Korea’s KT Sat has signed a major customer for an upcoming satellite. KT Sat said DDish TV, Mongolia’s sole direct-to-home television broadcaster, will lease one-eighth the capacity on the Koreasat-5A satellite to provide services to its customers. The Ku-band satellite is scheduled for launch on a Falcon 9 by the end of this year. [SpaceNews]
Another day means another delay for a NASA sounding rocket launch. NASA called off the launch from Wallops Flight Facility Sunday night, citing winds “not conducive for launch.” This was the eighth scrub for the mission because of weather or range issues. The launch has been tentatively rescheduled for Monday, weather permitting. The launch will release particles in the upper atmosphere, creating clouds that could be visible along much of the mid-Atlantic coast. [DelmarvaNow]
As its extended mission nears its end, scientists await a decision on the future of the Dawn spacecraft. The spacecraft, currently in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, was granted a one-year extended mission last year that expires at the end of this month. Project leaders are in discussions with NASA about another extended mission, either to continue studies of Ceres or leave orbit to fly by another asteroid. The recent failure of a third reaction wheel on the spacecraft means the spacecraft must rely entirely on thrusters for attitude control, which place limits on its life depending on its orbit. [Spaceflight Now]
Small launch vehicle developer ARCA is planning a suborbital launch this August to test its engine technology. The New Mexico-based company said it intends to carry out the Demonstrator 3 launch launch from Spaceport America in August, flying to an altitude of 100 kilometers. The launch will test the aerospike engine technology the company plans to use on its Haas 2CA small launch vehicle, which the company claims it will start flying in 2018. [Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News]
India’s first Mars orbiter has reached a milestone. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft marks 1,000 days in orbit around Mars today, and continues to be in good health, the Indian space agency ISRO said, although the scientific output of the mission has been relatively limited. India is planning a second Mars orbiter for launch as soon as 2020. [Hindustan Times]