The U.S. Air Force has delayed until next year the launch of two satellites originally scheduled for this fall.
The AEHF-4 communications satellite was scheduled to launch Oct. 11, and the SBIRS GEO-4 spacecraft Nov. 9, both on Atlas 5 rockets.
AEHF-4 is being postponed because of a problem with a power regulator unit on the satellite, while SBIRS GEO-4 is being delayed as the result of a “SBIRS program prioritization decision.”
The SBIRS satellite is now scheduled to launch in January, while a new date for the AEHF spacecraft has not been announced. [Spaceflight Now]
An EchoStar satellite malfunctioned during a routine relocation maneuver. The company said Wednesday that EchoStar-3 suffered “an anomaly of unknown origin” during a move last week, making communications with the satellite intermittent. The Lockheed Martin-built EchoStar-3 launched in 1997 and was five years past its design life, most recently operating in a fuel-conserving inclined orbit. EchoStar said it was working to restore communications with, and then retire, the spacecraft, and did not believe it posed a risk to other satellites in geostationary orbit. [SpaceNews]
United Launch Alliance plans to spend $115 million at its Alabama factory to prepare it for producing its Vulcan rocket. The company disclosed those investment plans this week for to local officials in a request for a property tax abatement. The work will allow the company’s plant in Decatur, Alabama, that currently builds Atlas and Delta rockets to produce the Vulcan. Local officials also approved a similar tax abatement for Dynetics, which is building facilities adjacent to the ULA plant for manufacturing and testing space hardware. [Decatur (Ala.) Daily]
Lockheed Martin will spend $350 million to build a new satellite manufacturing facility in Denver. The Gateway Center will take shape on the company’s Waterton Canyon campus over the next three years, with a groundbreaking by the end of the month. The 266,000-square-foot building will accommodate five A2100 satellites at the same time, with both assembly and testing facilities under the same roof. [Denver Post]
India’s space agency will complete a second vehicle assembly building at its spaceport by the end of this year. The second building will eliminate a bottleneck in launch processing as India increases the number of launches of its PSLV and GSLV rockets. The spaceport has two launch pads, and ISRO’s chairman said a third launch pad isn’t immediately needed. [The Times of India]
Vector is planning a low-altitude suborbital test flight of its Vector-R rocket this morning. The launch, from the future site of Spaceport Camden in Georgia, is scheduled for between 8 and 10 a.m. Eastern, weather permitting. It will be the second test flight of the rocket after a similar low-altitude test in California in May. Vector is developing the Vector-R for launches of small satellites. [WJXT-TV Jacksonville, Fla.]
A “hot Jupiter” exoplanet is the first to show signs of having a stratosphere. Studies of WASP-121b using the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes revealed that the planet, which closely orbits its star, likely has a stratosphere with water molecules, with temperatures increasing with altitude. The stratosphere reaches temperatures of 2,500 degrees Celsius, at which even iron is in gaseous form. [Sky & Telescope]
A number of glasses being sold to observe this month’s solar eclipse may not be safe. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) issued this week updated guidelines for selecting such glasses, through which one can safely observe the sun during the partial phases of the eclipse. Some vendors of glasses have reportedly been printing fake labels claiming their glasses are certified to an ISO standard. The AAS has a list of reputable vendors, and also provides tips about testing glasses: if you can see anything through them other than the sun itself, they are not safe. [Space.com]
The payload of a Vega rocket that launched Tuesday night included more than just two satellites. The rocket also carried the jersey of Italian soccer star Francesco Totti, who retired from club AS Roma earlier this year. Totti wore number 10 for AS Roma, and the launch was the 10th for the Vega rocket. [AFP]