NASA astronauts completed the first of two spacewalks outside the International Space Station Friday to replace batteries.
Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson spent six and a half hours outside the station, swapping out old batteries used by the station’s power system with new ones delivered on a Japanese cargo spacecraft last month.
The astronauts completed the work ahead of schedule, giving them time to perform some additional tasks at the end of the spacewalk. Kimbrough and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will perform a similar spacewalk on Friday to complete the battery replacement work. [CBS]
SpaceX now has an FAA license for its Falcon 9 return to flight, but weather has delayed the launch. The FAA said Friday it had accepted SpaceX’s report on the cause of a pad explosion Sept. 1 that destroyed a Falcon 9 during preparations for a static-fire test, and issued a license covering seven Falcon 9 launches of Iridium spacecraft. At the time the FAA issued the license, the launch was scheduled for Monday, but SpaceX and Iridium announced Sundaya delay to no earlier than Saturday, Jan. 14 because of poor weather at the California launch site. [SpaceNews]
A small Chinese launch vehicle has carried out its first commercial launch. A Kuaizhou-1A rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 11:11 p.m. Eastern Sunday night. The rocket placed into orbit the JL-1 remote sensing satellite and two experimental cubesats. The Kuaizhou-1A is a solid-fuel rocket developed to launch small satellites and is operated by ExPace, a commercial subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation. [Xinhua]
The outgoing Secretary of the Air Force said Friday no one may take over her current role as top Pentagon space adviser. Deborah Lee James was named the first Principal DOD Space Adviser (PDSA) in October 2015. James, in a speech Friday, said there’s no guarantee that her successor as Air Force Secretary, or anyone else in Pentagon leadership, will take the PDSA position in the incoming Trump administration. She said it will be up to James Mattis, nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense, and his leadership to decide whether to retain the PDSA position or replace it with an alternative approach. [SpaceNews]
NASA’s science chief, seeking to assure concerned scientists, said that his meetings with the Trump landing team at NASA have gone as expected.Thomas Zurbuchen said during a town hall meeting at an astronomy conference last week that his meetings with the landing team have been “very thoughtful.” Those discussions, he said, have been “customer-driven” with the agency responding to questions about its various science programs. He added he understood, though, why scientists might be concerned about the incoming administration, given the limited information about what will happen to science programs. [SpaceNews]
Globalstar is moving ahead with an alternative terrestrial communications system. The mobile satellite services company recently won FCC approval to use its 11.5 MHz of spectrum located at the 2.4 GHz band for an LTE service, an industry standard for high-speed wireless communications for mobile phones. The LTE strategy replaces an earlier plan by Globalstar for Terrestrial Low Power Service, which would have combined the company’s licensed spectrum with some unlicensed spectrum, an approach critics claimed would have created interference in the unlicensed band. Globalstar CEO Jay Monroe said the company plans to raise “a modest amount of capital” in 2017 and 2018 to support development of the LTE service. [SpaceNews]
The U.S. Air Force has formally started an “analysis of alternatives” study for military satellite communications. The widely anticipated study formally kicked off last month and is expected to last a year. The study will examine approaches to meeting the military’s communications needs, using either additional Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft or alternative approaches, such as purchasing bandwidth on commercial satellites. [SpaceNews]
Outgoing NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a final visit Friday to the Stennis Space Center. Bolden said during the visit that he didn’t think the uncertainty the agency faces under the incoming Trump administration is any greater than what it experienced eight years ago when the Obama administration started. Both Bolden and Stennis director Richard Gilbrech said the center will be busy supporting propulsion tests for both NASA’s Space Launch System and other, commercial developers. [WLOX-TV Biloxi, Miss.]
Astronomers predict a stellar collision could become one of the brightest objects in the night sky in 2022. Astronomers said last week they expect the two stars in the binary system KIC 9832227 to collide in 2022, give or take a year, creating a “red nova” that will briefly become one of the brightest objects in the sky. The two stars have been approaching each other for some time and already share an atmosphere. [Science]
A weekend snowstorm has shut down NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility today.The center on the Virginia coast got about one foot of snow from Saturday’sstorm, and will be closed Monday as a result. The snow may not last long, though: forecasts call for highs around 60˚F by Thursday. [Twitter @NASA_Wallops]
Hidden Figures generated some impressive figures at the box office this weekend. The movie, a historical drama about African-American women working at NASA in the early Space Age, brought in an estimated $21.8 million in its first weekend of wide release nationwide. It finished just behind the Star Wars film Rogue One, at $22 million for the weekend. [Variety]