Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to produce its AR1 engine in Huntsville, creating 100 jobs.
The company said Monday it selected Huntsville because of the presence of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Dynetics, a company partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne on the engine.
Aerojet plans to have the AR1 certified for use by 2019, although it’s not clear yet what vehicle will use the AR1, as United Launch Alliance currently is planning to use the BE-4 engine from Blue Origin on its Vulcan launch vehicle. [Huntsville Times]
The chairman of the House Science Committee said Monday he expects Congress to pass a NASA authorization bill next month. In an interview, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he has been working with senators on a version of a NASA authorization bill based on one that the Senate passed late last year. The bill would include many of the same provisions as the earlier one, including development of an exploration roadmap, space station transition plan and astronaut health monitoring. Congress last passed a NASA authorization bill in the fall of 2010. [SpaceNews]
A report by NASA’s inspector general identified several risks that threaten to delay the Mars 2020 mission. The report said that while the project is optimistic that it will be ready to launch in July 2020, the mission is dealing with several technical issues, including a lack of maturity on some of the rover’s key technologies for its sampling system. That system is a critical part of the rover, whose primary purpose is to collect samples of Martian soil and rock for later return to Earth. The rover also faces issues with two of its instruments and overall design maturity in advance of the spacecraft’s critical design review in February. [SpaceNews]
A German official said that Europe needs to maintain its space capabilities in response to policies from the Trump administration. Norbert Barthle, parliamentary state secretary for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation and Digital Infrastructures, said after Friday’s launch of a communications satellite from French Guiana that isolationist signals from the new administration make it more important than ever that Europe maintain “all the European competence you can find for a successful mission.” His comments came after ESA Director General Jan Woerner discussed how space could demonstrate “global cooperation beyond earthly crisis.” [SpaceNews]
India plans to launch a navigation satellite to replace one whose atomic clocks have malfunctioned. The spare satellite will be launched later this year to replace one of the seven satellites in India’s regional satellite navigation system. The other six satellites in the system are still working well, according to the Indian space agency ISRO. The atomic clocks in the Indian satellites come from the same Swiss company that supplied clocks for Europe’s Galileo satellite system, which has also suffered several clock malfunctions. [IANS]
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is among those organizations speaking out against the Trump administration’s immigration executive order. In a statement Monday, the IAU said it was “profoundly concerned” about the order that blocks entry into the U.S. by traveler from seven nations and also halts the admission of refugees. “The IAU hopes that such actions from a country do not trigger a chain reaction in other countries around the globe, which would severely damage the science of astronomy,” the organization stated. [Space.com]
An Intelsat communications satellite entered service Monday after a delayed journey to geostationary orbit. Intelsat 33e launched into a transfer orbit on an Ariane 5 in August, but encountered a problem with its orbit-raising engine shortly thereafter. Controllers used other thrusters to raise the Boeing-built spacecraft into geostationary orbit, delaying its arrival by about three months. The satellite, operating at 60 degrees east, will provide service for customers from Europe to the Asia-Pacific. [Spaceflight Now]
A Progress cargo spacecraft will undock from the ISS this morning. The Progress MS-03 spacecraft is scheduled to undock at 9:25 a.m. Eastern from the station’s Pirs module and reenter several hours later. A new cargo spacecraft, Progress MS-05, is scheduled for launch Feb. 22. [TASS]
A planned telescope in Chile still needs to raise half a billion dollars. The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) recently hired Robert Shelton, the former president of the University of Arizona, as the telescope consortium’s new president to help raise the additional money needed to finish the telescope. GMT, to be built on a Chilean mountaintop, will consist of seven mirrors each 8.4 meters across. [Ars Technica]
GPS satellites can also be used to study space weather. The Los Alamos National Laboratory released Monday 16 years of space weather data based on radiation data collected by sensors on the GPS satellites that provide new details on conditions in the Van Allen Belts. Other scientists have used signals from the GPS satellites to search for a hypothetical type of dark matter, finding no evidence of it in the vicinity of the Earth. [Science]