Ariane 5 on the launch pad. Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace has set a May 4 date for its next Ariane 5 launch.

The mission, flight VA236, is carrying two communications satellites and was originally scheduled for mid-March before protests in French Guiana disrupted spaceport operations and put all launches there on hold.

Preparations are also resuming for two other launches, a Soyuz and another Ariane 5, that were also delayed by the protests. [Arianespace]

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SpaceX carried out a Falcon 9 static fire test Tuesday in preparation for the company’s first NRO mission. The Falcon 9 rocket performed the brief burn of its first stage engines Tuesday afternoon at the Launch Complex 39A pad at the Kennedy Space Center, part of routine pre-launch preparations. The rocket is scheduled to launch Sunday morning carrying a classified payload for the NRO on a mission designated NROL-76. Satellite observers speculate that, based on the rocket’s trajectory, it may be carrying a data relay satellite to operate in a Molniya orbit. [Spaceflight Now]

The head of China’s space agency said he’s been in talks about cooperation in ESA’s “Moon Village” concept. Tian Yulong said this week that China has discussed “possible cooperation” with ESA and others on the proposal for an international facility on the surface of the moon that could host robotic spacecraft and, eventually, humans. He said that China should in any case continue with its lunar exploration strategy “instead of trying to catch up with other countries’ achievements.” [Global Times]

United Launch Alliance helped improve the bottom line for Lockheed Martin’s space division in the last quarter. Lockheed Martin Space Systems said Tuesday it had an operating income of $288 million in the first quater of 2017, an increase of $44 million over the same quarter of 2016. The primary reason for the increase was due to increased earnings from its stake in ULA, from $50 million in the first quarter last year to $80 million this year. Lockheed Martin officials, though, said they expect this to be a short-term surge, with earnings declining later in the year. [SpaceNews]

Negotiations continue on a spending bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of this week. The current continuing resolution (CR) funding government agencies expires Friday, and discussions about either a new CR or final appropriation bill for fiscal year 2017 have been stuck in debates about border security and healthcare issues. Appropriators could pass a short-term extension of the current CR, giving negotiators several more days to work out a deal. [Washington Post]

India’s space agency, looking for land to expand its facilities, has acquired former watch factories in two cities. ISRO placed the highest bid for three parcels of land totaling 208 acres in Bengaluru and Tumakuru that previously hosted sites that made watches for the state-owned company HMT. ISRO says it needs the properties to expand facilities, particularly in Bengaluru, that are “saturated” and can’t handle additional spacecraft projects. [The Hindu]

A Russian company says it can develop a rocket to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9. RSC Energia says the unnamed rocket will be “competitive” with the Falcon 9, but disclosed few other details about the vehicle. The rocket would be designed to launch from the spaceports at Baikonur and Vostochny and also from the Sea Launch platform. [Sputnik]

A New Mexico company has started beta testing of a computing platform to analyze satellite imagery. Descartes Labs is accepting applications to beta test its system that can analyze satellite imagery and extract information from it, based on technology developed at Los Alamos. The company was founded by Mark Johnson, who was previously CEO of a news startup, Zite, that was bought by CNN. [Axios]

NASA has added more Webby awards to an already crowded display case. NASA’s social media presence received an award in corporate communications and a “People’s Voice” award, the Cassini website won a Webby for best science website, while the main NASA website won its ninth People Voice award for government and civil websites. The Webby Awards were established in 1996 by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to recognize websites, social media and other multimedia online. NASA won its first Webby in 2002. [NASA]

The Kansas Cosmosphere will restore historic consoles from NASA’s Mission Control in Houston. NASA selected the museum to renovate the Apollo-era consoles as part of a $3.5 million restoration of the Mission Operations Control Room at the Johnson Space Center. The Kansas Cosmosphere has previously restored the Apollo 13 capsule and Saturn V engines recovered from the ocean floor by an expedition funded by Jeff Bezos. The work will be completed by the second half of next year. [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...