2013 Year in Review | March

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ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, formalize a deal to cooperate on the two-launch ExoMars mission to the red planet.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces a plan to bolster the country’s missile defense by adding 14 GMD interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, deploying a new missile warning radar in Japan, and conducting environmental studies for a third interceptor site in the eastern United States. The plan terminates the SM-3 Block 2B development effort to cover costs.

NASA announces that the Curiosity rover discovered evidence of pH-neutral water on Mars. Scientists believe water that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline is an essential ingredient for the formation of life. 

The U.S. Air Force launches the second Lockheed Martin-built satellite in its next-generation SBIRS missile warning constellation from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

NASA science chief John Grunsfeld warns that sequestration budget cuts likely will force the agency to delay solicitations for new, small-scale science missions.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) makes its second contracted cargo delivery to the international space station, but not without a little drama: The Dragon capsule’s docking with station is delayed by an issue with its maneuvering thrusters that is quickly resolved. 

EchoStar Corp.’s Hughes Network Systems orders the all-Ka-band Jupiter 2 broadband satellite from Space Systems/Loral.

The U.S. Department of Defense disputes speculation by a high-profile scientist that an experimental Russian satellite was destroyed by debris from China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

Arabsat and Eutelsat signal that a three-year dispute over satellite frequencies is nearing resolution.

Across-the-board sequestration cuts take effect for U.S. government agencies including NASA, which sees its 2013 budget drop to about $16.9 billion — down 5 percent from 2012. 

Using NASA funds, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory produces the first plutonium-238 in the United States in more than 25 years. The isotope commonly powers spacecraft that cannot rely on solar power. 

Intelsat scales back the size of its planned initial public offering of stock from $1.75 billion to $750 million.

Bo Jiang, a Chinese national and former contractor at NASA’s Langley Research Center, is arrested by federal agents while boarding a plane to China just days after U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) alleged that the contractor had unauthorized access to NASA documents at the center. 

NASA clamps down on travel spending, banning employees from using agency funds to participate in events such as the National Space Symposium, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner and the Paris Air Show. 

Congress passes a 2013 budget, averting a government shutdown and funding federal agencies including the Defense Department and NASA.