new shepard propulsion module landing
The propulsion module of Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle after landing Oct. 5. The booster made a powered landing despite predictions before the flight it would not survive a test of the crew capsule's abort motor. Credit: Blue Origin

A local government has given its approval to an incentive package for Blue Origin’s engine manufacturing plant.

County commissioners in Madison County, Alabama, voted Wednesday to approve its role in the incentive deal for the BE-4 engine plant, including site preparation and $500,000.

The Huntsville City Council will vote to approve its part of the overall deal Thursday.

The agreement, announced last month, will have Blue Origin build a factory for BE-4 engines in the city should United Launch Alliance select that engine for its Vulcan rocket. [WHNT-TV Huntsville]

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A controversial proposal to create a “Space Corps” within the U.S. Air Force is now expected to survive in the House version of a defense authorization bill. The House Rules Committee rejected a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) late Wednesday that would have replaced language in the bill establishing the Space Corps with a study of the need for one. The committee reportedly ruled the amendment out of order, but did not provide additional details about its decision. That means the Space Corps language will likely remain in the bill when the House votes on the full bill. The Air Force, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the White House have all expressed their opposition to the Space Corps provision in the act. [DefenseNews]

The White House is also opposed to language in the NDAA that would block the Pentagon from using commercial satellites launched by Russia. The provision would prevent the Defense Department from buying bandwidth on commercial communications satellites launched on Russian rockets, regardless of who owns the satellite. The statement of administration policy about the act said the White House “strongly objects” to that section, noting that three-fourths of satellite services that the Pentagon acquires are from foreign operators that use Russian and other launch vehicles. [SpaceNews]

The House Appropriations Committee will mark up a spending bill today that offers a significant increase to NASA planetary science but slashes a NOAA satellite program. The report accompanying the commerce, justice and science appropriations bill, released Wednesday, provided additional details about the bill to be considered by the full committee this morning. The bill would give NASA’s planetary science program more than $2.1 billion, including additional funding for Europa and Mars missions. For NOAA, it would fully fund the ongoing GOES-R and JPSS weather satellite programs, but reduce the Polar Follow-On program of future JPSS satellites to just $50 million, citing a lack of details from the administration on a restructuring of that effort. [SpaceNews]

Moon Express says it is still planning to launch its first commercial lunar lander mission by the end of this year. The company unveiled new details about its MX-1E spacecraft Wednesday, and said the first spacecraft should be completed and ready to ship to the launch site in September. The spacecraft will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, which is still in development after a partially-successful test flight in May. Moon Express said the MX-1E will be the building block for larger future missions, including a sample return mission the company says it could launch as soon as 2020. [SpaceNews]

The Australian government will carry out a space policy review that could lead to a national space agency. The review, announced Thursday by Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos, will examine how the country can support the development of a space industry. The review will start later this month and be completed by next March. It could set the stage for the creation of an Australian space agency, which many space advocates in the country say is sorely needed. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette will become the country’s next governor general. The formal announcement of Payette as governor general, the Queen’s representative in Canada, will be made later today. Payette was selected as an astronaut in 1992 and flew on two shuttle missions in 1999 and 2009. [CBC]

Houston is moving ahead with development of a spaceport at the city’s Ellington Airport. The Houston Airport System has issued a call for proposals to build roads and utilities on a parcel of land at the airport for later development by aerospace companies that will set up operations there. The airport, located near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has an FAA spaceport license, but does not currently host any launch providers. [Houston Chronicle]

NASA’s Juno spacecraft took stunning images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot in its latest flyby. Juno flew about 9,000 kilometers above the massive storm late Monday, and the mission released some images from that flyby Wednesday, giving both scientists and the general public the opportunity to process them. The pass was the sixth science flyby since the spacecraft entered a highly elliptical orbit around the planet last year. []

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...