Ariane 5 on the launch pad. Credit: Arianespace

Airbus and Safran have finalized the creation of their launch vehicle joint venture.

Two companies announced they had closed the deal to create Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL) that will be responsible for the manufacturing of the Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 vehicles.

ASL was already managing that work while their parent companies worked out final terms of the agreement.

Under that new deal, Safran will pay Airbus 750 million euros ($835 million), 50 million euros less than originally planned, to give the companies a 50-50 share of ASL. [Reuters]

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NASA negotiated discounts and other considerations from SpaceX after the failure of a Dragon cargo mission last year. A report issued this week by the NASA Office of Inspector General said that NASA received discounted pricing on five additional cargo missions added to SpaceX’s existing contract, as well as other “significant consideration” from the company to help compensate for the loss of the Dragon on a June 2015 mission to the International Space Station. The report praised NASA for negotiating those discounts, but also recommended that the agency improve how it investigates commercial cargo launch failures to better understand both technical and other causes. [SpaceNews]

Canada is planning a multibillion-dollar satellite system to provide communications for the country’s Arctic regions. The Enhanced Satcom Project system, estimated to cost Canadian $2.4 billion (US$1.9 billion), would include at least two satellites in elliptical orbits to provide 24-hour communications, a Canadian military official said this week. The Arctic region is not well served by satellites in geostationary orbit because of its high latitudes, requiring alternative approaches. Enhanced Satcom Project replaces Polar Communications and Weather, a concept studied several years ago by the Canadian Space Agency but shelved because of its high price. [SpaceNews]

Bright patches seen on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres are salts that form in the presence of liquid water. Scientists reported in the journal Nature Wednesday that the bright patches seen in the floor of one crater by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft are sodium carbonate, a salt that on Earth is formed when water evaporates from a lake or hot springs. Scientists had previously speculated that the bright patches were ice or Epsom salt. A related study, also based on Dawn data, suggests that Ceres’ surface is made primarily of rock and not ice. []

The Japanese space agency JAXA will include a space debris removal experiment on an upcoming ISS cargo flight. The next HTV, or Kounotori, mission to the station, scheduled for launch this fall, will include a tether that will deploy from the spacecraft after it departs from the station at the end of its mission. The spacecraft will run a current through the tether to test its ability to use the Earth’s magnetic field to slow down. That technology, JAXA believes, could be used to help deorbit space debris. [Kyodo]

ESA’s Rosetta comet mission will formally come to an end in three months. The agency announced Thursday that the spacecraft, which arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko nearly two years ago, will end its mission Sept. 30 by touching down on the surface of the comet. The spacecraft’s power levels are dropping as it recedes from the sun, prompting ESA to end the mission now rather than attempt to put the spacecraft into hibernation. Rosetta will make “once-in-a-lifetime” measurements as its descends towards to the comet’s surface, but is not expected to survive landing. [ESA]

Astrobotic, a company developing a commercial lunar lander, has hired a veteran Lockheed Martin engineer as its new mission director. Sharad Bhaskaran worked for 25 years at Lockheed Martin as an engineer and manager on projects ranging from space shuttle payloads to the International Space Station. Astrobotic is currently developing a lunar lander and is competing in the Google Lunar X Prize. [GlobeNewswire]

The arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter on Independence Day will be dependent on a British engine. Juno will fire its main engine, a Leros 1b engine built by Moog-ISP in England, for 35 minutes on the evening of July 4 to enter orbit around Jupiter. The engine has already fired twice earlier in the mission, raising confidence in mission managers that the engine will work correctly for this critical burn. Versions of the Leros 1b have been used on other NASA missions, including the Messenger Mercury orbiter and some Mars orbiters. [Spaceflight Now]

Ocean scientists are reveling in the bounty of data being provided by satellites.Altimeters on six satellites are now providing scientists with data on the height and shape of the sea surface, which in turn supports applications ranging from weather forecasting to marine science. The data, coming from satellites operated by the U.S., Europe, India and China, are being used by both government agencies to understand the conditions of the ocean as well as by companies monitoring ocean currents for shipping and drilling work. [BBC]

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...