A SpaceX Dragon capsule ahead of its May 2015 abort test. Credit: SpaceX
A SpaceX Dragon capsule ahead of its May 2015 abort test. Credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX investor has increased the value of its stake in the company.

Fidelity has written up its investment in the company by 15 percent in one fund that holds company shares, and by a similar amount in another fund.

Fidelity participated in a $1 billion round in the company earlier this year led by Google.

Fidelity’s decision to write up its value of SpaceX comes as it was writing down its stakes in other technology companies, like Snapchat. [DCInno / Fortune]

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Venture capitalists interested in investing in space companies have to deal with a lot of bad business plans. Investors at a recent conference said they were “frustrated” by meetings with engineers who are looking for funding for their technology but don’t understand what its markets and customers are. More investors, though, are entering the market: In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the U.S. intelligence community, has invested in “seven or eight” space companies in the last two years. [SpaceNews]


Two Galileo navigation satellites launched into the wrong orbits last year will find new life studying general relativity.

ESA said this week that researchers will study the variation in timing signals from the satellites as a test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The spacecraft’s atomic clocks should run slightly faster when the spacecraft are closer to Earth in their elliptical orbits than when they are farther away. “This is a classic case of ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’” said one physicist. [Nature]

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants the country’s launch industry to improve. Speaking at a meeting Thursday about Russian space priorities for the next decade, Putin said the country’s launch vehicles must become “reliable and competitive” in the international market. Putin also called for enhancing Russian communication and remote sensing spacecraft. [TASS]

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Psychedelic Pluto


There’s false color, and then there’s false color.

NASA released this image Thursday of Pluto based on data from the New Horizons mission, analyzed through an approach called principal component analysis to reveal differences in the surface that may be too subtle to otherwise detect.

The image was part of the science results of the mission presented earlier this week at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences conference in Maryland. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

UrtheCast is shifting its emphasis from cameras on the International Space Station to a new fleet of satellites. The company said this week it was shelving plans to develop a second-generation camera system for the ISS so it could focus on developing a constellation of optical and radar imaging satellites it announced this summer. UrtheCast executives said they have lined up $370 million in customer commitments for that constellation, which the company plans to launch in 2019 and 2020. UrtheCast continues to operate two cameras mounted on the station’s Russian segment, and two Deimos Imaging satellites also acquired earlier this year. [SpaceNews]

Blue Origin plans to start launching commercial suborbital research flights as soon as next summer. The company’s New Shepard vehicle, which flew one test flight in late April, is scheduled to make another test flight by the end of the year. A successful series of test flights, company officials said at a recent microgravity research workshop, would lead to commercial flights of payloads, but not yet people, by mid-2016. Blue Origin is working with NanoRacks to sell payload space on New Shepard for experiments. [SpaceNews]


Satellite operator Avanti took a loss in its last fiscal quarter because of excess capacity on its satellites. The company reported a loss of $2.9 million in the last quarter on $13.7 million in revenue. The company’s three communication satellites have fill rates of just 20-25%, low by satellite industry standards. Despite the low fill rates, the company has an addition satellite under construction as well as a large payload on another satellite under development. [SpaceNews]

A piece of space debris reentered over the Indian Ocean early Friday. The object, designated WT1190F, was discovered last month and initially thought to be a small asteroid, but follow-up observations suggest it was a small rocket stage, perhaps from the Lunar Prospector or Nozomi missions. Cloudy conditions in Sri Lanka prevented people there from seeing the reentry, although an aircraft was dispatched from Abu Dhabi to observe it. [GeekWire]


You, too, can own a watch that’s been to the moon — well, a replica of one, at least.

Bulova said it will start selling in January a “modern version” of the watch that astronaut David Scott wore on one of his Apollo 15 spacewalks, after his government-issued Omega watch broke.

The watch Scott wore sold at action recently for $1.625 million. The replica will go on sale for a more modest $550. [collectSPACE]

The Air Force has upgraded the security of the GPS ground segment. Lockheed Martin, under a 2013 contract with the Air Force, has completed an update known as GPS Intrusion Protection Reinforcement to improve the security of ground systems and update obsolete equipment. The work was part of the company’s $104 million ground system sustainment contract. [SpaceNews]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...