Astronauts set to perform 200th spacewalk in International Space Station history
Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer were set to begin the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk around 8 a.m. Eastern, but the start has been delayed by small water leak in an airlock umbilical line.
The two will replace an avionics box used by an experiment platform on the station’s exterior, among other maintenance tasks.
The spacewalk is the 200th performed to assemble and maintain the ISS, dating back to December 1998. [NASA]
Intelsat has again extended a deadline for a debt swap that is part of its deal to merge with OneWeb.Intelsat said Thursday that it has set a new deadline of Monday for bondholders to exchange debt. The company had originally set an April 20 deadline for the swap, then extended it to May 10 before this latest extension. The swap, designed to reduce the company’s $15 billion in debt by $3.6 billion, is a condition for Japan’s Softbank to invest $1.7 billion into the company and merge it with OneWeb. [SpaceNews]
SpaceX successfully performed a static fire of the Falcon 9 first stage that will launch an Inmarsat satellite next week. The company said the brief static fire, part of the company’s regular pre-launch preparations, went as planned Thursday afternoon. The test sets the stage for a launch of the Inmarsat 5 F4 satellite during a window of 7:20 to 8:11 p.m. Eastern Monday from the Kennedy Space Center. [Florida Today]
Inmarsat says that satellite could play several roles during its life. In a conference call with investors earlier this month, company CEO Rupert Pearce said that the three existing Inmarsat 5 satellites already provide global coverage, so the fourth would serve as a spare. It could, though, be used for “discrete business opportunities” that the company may pursue during its life. The satellite may initially be placed over Europe, but those plans, Pearce said, have not been finalized. [SpaceNews]
NASA and industry see continuity in NASA’s Mars plans despite a change in administrations. At the Humans to Mars Summit this week, agency and industry officials said the passage of a NASA authorization act earlier this year, which includes language supporting human missions to Mars as soon as 2033, give them confidence that NASA is on the right track. NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said both the administration and Congress are “very supportive” of that goal, even though the current administration has not laid out details about its space policy. [SpaceNews]
Eutelsat expects to see growth in its video business even as its revenue fell in its latest quarter. The global satellite operator reported a 4.9 percent decline in revenue in its fiscal third quarter to $396 million, which the company blamed on pricing pressure and capacity issues on its Hotbird fleet of satellites. Euelsat is optimistic that its video business, which accounts for about two-thirds of its revenue, will return to growth next year. [Reuters]
A small reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator was damaged in a flight test last month.Masten Space Systems’ Xaero-B vehicle was damaged in an April 19 test flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port, and the company has no current plans to repair it. The company said it is pending DARPA approval for a statement that provides details about the incident. Xaero-B, which, like the company’s other vehicles takes off and lands vertically, has flown 75 times, primarily doing low-altitude flights to test various technologies. [Parabolic Arc]
A Chinese scientist said this week that the government was studying a mission similar to NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Ye Peijian, chief commander and designer of China’s lunar exploration program, said the proposed mission would launch in the next decade to “capture” a near Earth asteroid and move it into orbit around the moon for scientific study or mining. It’s unclear how seriously the Chinese government is considering this proposal. NASA’s ARM called for collecting a small boulder off the surface of a near Earth asteroid that would be placed into lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts. ARM, however, is facing cancellation by the Trump administration. [South China Morning Post]
A small Chinese town wants to cash in on a new spaceport. Haosheng is a town on the outskirts of the new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on the island of Hainan. Local officials hope that the relative accessibility of the launch site, compared to existing Chinese spaceports in the country’s interior, will turn the town into a tourist attraction. That development has been slow, though: a theme park about space, whose groundbreaking was in 2010, has yet to open, and a planned business district also has yet to take shape. [Los Angeles Times]
A Neptune-sized exoplanet shows evidence of water but also “exotic” clouds. Observations by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes of HAT-P-26b shows that the planet, which closely orbits its parent star, offered strong evidence for water. The observations show signs of clouds as well, which scientists speculate would be made of disodium sulfide rather than water vapor. However, scientists said they saw little sign of heavier elements in the planet’s atmosphere, which raises questions about where and how the planet formed relative to its star. [Space.com]