OneWeb satellite
OneWeb satellite. Credit: OneWeb

Airbus has started assembly of the first satellites for OneWeb’s broadband constellation.

Work on the first 10 satellites formally started Tuesday at an Airbus factory on France, with a goal of having the satellites completed and launched by next April.

Most of the satellites in the initial set of 900 will be built at a factory currently under construction in Florida. [BBC]

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Language in a House defense authorization bill would restrict Air Force funding of new launch systems. The provision, included in the chairman’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act that will be marked up today, would limit Air Force funding to first-stage engines and related items, and not full launch systems. The provision comes after a closed-door briefing last week about an independent assessment by NASA that reportedly concluded development of Blue Origin’s BE-4 remained well ahead of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 despite a BE-4 powerpack testing mishap in May. United Launch Alliance has not yet made a decision on what engine to use on is Vulcan rocket, but has previously indicated its preferred choice is the BE-4. [SpaceNews]

SpaceX plans to introduce a “final” upgrade to the Falcon 9 rocket by the end of this year. In a recent radio show interview, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the “Block 5” version of the Falcon 9 should start flying by the end of this year. That version of the rocket incorporates lessons from the company’s reusability efforts, with the rocket’s first stage able to launch a dozen or more times. Shotwell said the Falcon Heavy is set to make its debut launch later this year, followed by two launches, for Arabsat and the Air Force, in early 2018. [SpaceNews]

An Ariane 5 is set to launch two communications satellites today. The Ariane 5 is scheduled to lift off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 4:59 p.m. Eastern at the beginning of a launch window that extends for more than one hour. The rocket is carrying the Hellas-Sat 3/Inmarsat S EAN satellite that carries payloads for both Hellas-Sat and Inmarsat, as well as the GSAT-17 communications satellite for the Indian space agency ISRO. [Spaceflight Now]

SpaceX is targeting its third Falcon 9 launch in nine days this weekend. The company is planning a July 2 launch of the Intelsat 35e spacecraft from Florida. The launch would come just a week after a “doubleheader” of launches on the East and West Coasts, as the company works to catch up on a backlog of launches. [Daily Breeze]

Satellogic has raised $27 million to further development of its hyperspectral satellite system. The company raised the Series B round from several investors, including Chinese company Tencent. Satellogic, with operations in several countries, has launched several small satellites to date with high-resolution and hyperspectral imagers, and plans to launch 12 to 18 in 2018 as it expands its constellation. The company believes that cost efficiencies and data analysis tools that can make the best use of hyperspectral imagery will set the company apart from other Earth-observation satellite companies. [SpaceNews]

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center was locked down for part of the day Tuesday after a report of an “active shooter” elsewhere at Redstone Arsenal. Police investigations failed to turn up any evidence of a shooter nor any signs of shots being fired at the Sparkman Center at the arsenal. Officials said they’re looking into whether the 911 calls that triggered the lockdown were a hoax, or linked with a planned active shooter exercise at the base later this week that has since been cancelled. [Huntsville Times]

The British space industry is concerned about the potential loss of a liability cap in a new bill. The Space Industry Bill, formally introduced Tuesday, is designed to set up licensing and regulation of commercial launch sites in the U.K. The bill, though, eliminates a liability cap of 60 million euros per launch established in 2015. The elimination of a cap could make it difficult for British companies to obtain insurance for their launches, an industry group warned. [Financial Times]

Two supermassive black holes are closely orbiting each other in the center of a distant galaxy. Astronomers used radio observations of galaxy 0402+379, 750 million light-years away, to find that the galaxy’s center has two black holes with a combined mass 15 billion times that of the sun. The two black holes are just 24 light-years apart, closer than any other pair of giant black holes discovered to date. [Science]

Wearing NASA apparel shows your support for the space agency, but doesn’t provide it with any financial support. NASA approves the commercial use of both its current “meatball” logo and the “worm” logo introduced in the 1970s, but does not collect licensing fees. NASA has seen a surge in requests to use those logos, from a few a month to about one a day today. There are limits to what NASA will grant permission for: it has a long-standing policy not to allow the logos’ use for alcohol or tobacco products. [Racked]

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...