The Falcon 9's launch, re-entry and landing burns can be seen in this long-exposure photograph of SpaceX's Dec. 22 mission, which launched 11 Orbcomm satellites and demonstrated the landing of the Falcon 9's first stage. Credit: SpaceX

An Air Force official is expecting a busy year of launches — and landings — at Cape Canaveral.

Col. Eric Krystkowiak, commander of the 45th Launch Group, said Tuesday there could be 30 or more launches from the Cape in 2016, primarily Atlas and Delta launches by United Launch Alliance and Falcon missions by SpaceX.

Krystkowiak said the Air Force was comfortable with SpaceX attempting additional landings of its Falcon 9 first stage at a decommissioned launch site at the Cape after a successful landing last month. [Florida Today]

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Aerojet Rocketdyne is expecting revenue growth this year, the company’s president and CEO said Tuesday. In a Washington Space Business Roundtable speech, Eileen Drake said the company has a record backlog of $3 billion, which should result in revenue growth in 2016 even after some “hiccups” in 2015. Drake said she expected the company to reach an agreement with the Air Force this quarter on future funding of the AR1 engine Aerojet is developing as a potential sucecssor to the RD-180. [Reuters]

A key member of Congress is planning to introduce a wide-ranging space reform bill this spring even though he doesn’t expect the legislation to pass. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) said Tuesday he is working on a bill called the American Space Renaissance Act that would include a variety of policy changes ranging from use of Russian rocket engines to purchases of weather data from commercial satellites. Bridenstine said he’s under “no illusions” the whole bill will pass, but some sections could be incorporated into other legislation. [SpaceNews]

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A European Commission official said Tuesday the commission should play a role in developing Europe’s next-generation rocket. Philippe Brunet, speaking at a space policy conference in Brussels, said that European officials should take a bigger role in designing the vehicle to come after the Ariane 6 since the commission is now the largest customer for European launch services. Brunet also suggested that the European Space Agency should be investing more in reusable launch vehicle technology, citing recent achievements by Blue Origin and SpaceX. [SpaceNews]

Running in Place in Space

“I also performed the first American stress test in space in an unmechanized treadmill… what happened was I ran for 20 minutes pulling and pushing, and lo and behold discovered that the tape recorder was not working and had to repeat it. It made so much racket in that small, confined space that our crew was mighty happy when I got through.”

– Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), recalling his contribution to space medicine on the STS-61-C shuttle mission during a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the mission’s launch. [YouTube]

Several space companies were mentioned in an important speech Tuesday in Washington — State, that is. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in his “State of the State” address, mentioned work by Aerojet Rocketdyne on thrusters for the New Horizons spacecraft that flew past Pluto last year. He also mentioned successful landings by Blue Origin and SpaceX. All three companies have a presence in the state, including Blue Origin’s headquarters near Seattle. President Obama, in his final State of the Union speech Tuesday night, mentioned space only in passing, making a historical reference to Sputnik and the race to the moon while calling for a “moonshot” to cure cancer. [GeekWire]

A member of Congress discussed sexual harassment problems in astronomy on a speech on the House floor. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) discussed the case of a University of Arizona astronomy professor investigated for sexual harassment as one example of the problem of harassment in science. That professor, Timothy Frederick Slater, is now at the University of Wyoming and argued in an interview that he has reformed. Speier’s speech coincided with a report that Caltech suspended without pay for a year a professor of theoretical astrophysics after an investigation of sexual harassment allegations. [Mashable / Science]


The first satellite built in the Philippines is ready for launch. Diwata, a microsatellite built by Filipino researchers in cooperation with Japanese universities, was delivered Wednesday to the Japanese space agency JAXA for launch in April. The 50-kilogram satellite will provide Earth imagery using three instruments. [The Rappler]

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are cooperating in space even while they compete in the air. Northrop announced Tuesday it will provide an inertial measuring unit for a Lockheed small satellite bus, the LM 300. The deal comes as Lockheed and its partner, Boeing, are protesting an Air Force award of a bomber contract to Northrop. [Northrop Grumman]

Thank Jupiter and Saturn for making the solar system stable enough for life to develop on Earth. New models of solar system formation indicate that giant impacts happen more frequently and over longer periods in solar systems without giant outer planets, which would make it more difficult for life to form on Earth-like planets. “This really is a risk to habitability,” said Tom Barclay of NASA Ames at an astronomy conference last week. []

A full-scale shuttle replica may soon be taking a river cruise. LVX System, a company that develops LED displays, plans to spend several million dollars to repair and renovate a shuttle replica dubbed “Inspiration” that spent more than 20 years outside the Astronaut Hall of Fame near the Kennedy Space Center. The company wants to renovate the orbiter with a “state-of-the-art” theater and place it on a barge for a river tour of parts of the nation that never have seen a shuttle orbiter up close. Inspiration, which was in such bad condition it was nearly scrapped, will be moved this weekend to a repair site across the Indian River on Merritt Island, Florida. [collectSPACE]

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...