Russia’s space activities are one area of concern for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday, Carter said that “at sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.”

For space, that likely includes maneuvers by a Russian satellite called Luch that, at times, has positioned itself very close to other satellites in geostationary orbit.

Carter said that the U.S. was investing in “new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace” in part to counter those concerns, but did not elaborate. [SpacePolicyOnline]

More News

Blue Origin is stepping up its political lobbying efforts. The company, which hired its first outside lobbying firm in 2013, now has an in-house lobbyist and government affairs director, and has spent $260,000 on lobbying so far this year, a record for the company. The company also has a small political action committee directly funded by company founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, contributing to several members of Congress. The company’s political interests include legislation pending final passage in the House and Senate that would extend regulatory restrictions on commercial human spaceflight. [POLITICO]

An unannounced missile launch Saturday lit up California skies and alarmed some people. The Trident missile launched shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern from an Ohio-class submarine in the Pacific off the southern California coast as part of what the Navy called a routine test. The timing of the launch, shortly after sunset, meant that the missile’s plume was backlit by the sun at higher altitudes, making it visible as far east as Nevada and Arizona. Some people thought the plume was  everything from a meteor to a UFO. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

China launched another remote sensing satellite Sunday. A Long March 4B rocket launched the Yaogan 28 satellite at 2:06 a.m. Eastern Sunday. Chinese media said the satellite will be used for “experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster relief,” but many outside observers believe the Yaogan series of satellites is used for military reconnaissance. [Xinhua]

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Orbcomm is counting on an upcoming SpaceX launch to fill “a hole in the sky.” Orbcomm said late last week it expects a SpaceX Falcon 9 to launch in the first half of December carrying 11 of the company’s second-generation satellites, a schedule Orbcomm executives said was “achievable” assuming all continues to go well. The satellites will help fill gaps in coverage in Orbcomm’s current system that results in service delays for some customers. [SpaceNews]

Inmarsat expects to spend “substantial” funds to provide broadband Internet access to Lufthansa’s fleet of airliners. Inmarsat officials said Friday they will pay virtually all of the cost of outfitting 150 aircraft with equipment to connect with Inmarsat’s satellites for the service, but in return received a ten-year commitment from Lufthansa and “direct access” to the airliner’s customers who use the service. Inmarsat plans to provide more information on the exact costs of the project in March. [SpaceNews]

Spaceport America hosted the launch of a commercial sounding rocket Friday. UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft rocket launched from the New Mexico spaceport at 10:01 a.m. Friday, reaching a peak altitude of 120.7 kilometers before returning its payloads to the ground about 50 kilometers away. The rocket carried several technology demonstration payloads provided through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. [Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News]

The chairman of a key Senate appropriations subcommittee will face a primary challenge next year. Jonathan McConnell announced Friday he will challenge Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in next year’s Republican primary for the seat Shelby has held for nearly 30 years. Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations commerce, justice, and science subcommittee, whose jurisdiction includes NASA and NOAA. [Roll Call]

Human spaceflight is not a major priority for India’s space program, the head of the Indian space agency ISRO said Saturday. A. S. Kiran Kumar said ISRO’s focus for now is increasing the number of launches it is capable of performing, with a goal of 10-12 missions per year. Kumar said ISRO is looking at “critical technology development” efforts needed to support human spaceflight, but would not give a schedule for when he thought India would be ready to carry out crewed space missions. [The Times of India]

Physicists – lots of them – won a prize Sunday for their work studying neutrinos. Five teams will split the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their work showing that neutrinos can oscillate among three different types, a discovery that also won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. While the Nobel is split among just three winners, a total of 1,370 physicists will share the Breakthrough Prize, although two-thirds of the prize purse will go to seven people who led the teams. Some individual physicists will end up with as little as $700. [Scientific American]


The Week Ahead



  • Oxford, U.K.: The Reinventing Space 2015 conference, organized by the British Interplanetary Society, includes sessions on topics ranging from orbital debris to space access.



  • Greenbelt, Md.: The Maryland Space Business Roundtable holds a luncheon with NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman as the speaker.
  • Washington: The NASA Advisory Council’s Technology, Innovation and Engineering committee meets at NASA Headquarters.
  • Kourou, French Guiana: An Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to launch the Arabsat-6B and GSAT-15 satellites at 4:34 p.m. Eastern time.


  • Noordwijk, Netherlands: The first TEDxESA conference at ESA’s ESTEC facility includes presentations on the topic of “Science Beyond Fiction.”





  • Boston: Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) holds SpaceVision, the organization’s annual conference.

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...