NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Credit: Michael Moser video capture

Former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says he’s concerned about the future of NASA’s climate programs.

In an interview, Bolden said he was worried the Trump administration “seems to be curtailing the availability of valuable data to decision makers” in the areas of climate and other environmental research.

“That’s what I think is threatened if we’re not careful with the policies of the new administration,” he said.

Bolden added he thought that NASA’s exploration programs, including SLS and Orion, “won’t be bothered” by the administration. [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

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Launch problems have depressed forecasts for growth in the number of small satellites. A forecast issued Wednesday by SpaceWorks Enterprises projected up to 2,400 satellites weighing between 1 and 50 kilograms will be seeking launch from 2017 through 2023, a figure 20 percent below what it predicted last year. Launch failures and other delays have reduced the number of such smallsats launched from 158 in 2014 to 101 last year, although SpaceWorks expects that number to rebound this year. Growth in mass in some satellites, particularly for communications systems, also contributed to the diminished growth. [SpaceNews]

A French effort to develop a reusable engine now has European Space Agency support. The Prometheus engine project will receive $91 million from ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program to support its development, leading to a test firing in 2020. Airbus Safran Launchers and the French space agency CNES supported initial work on Prometheus, which uses liquid oxygen and methane propellants and is designed to be one-tenth the cost of the Vulcain 2.1 engine to be used on the Ariane 6. Prometheus could become part of a future reusable launch vehicle program. [SpaceNews]

A German is the latest to join ESA’s astronaut corps. ESA announced Thursday that Matthias Maurer, a finalist in the agency’s 2009 astronaut selection process, will join the corps and be eligible for future missions. Maurer, who has a doctorate in materials science, has been working as a crew support engineer at ESA since the 2009 selection round. [Deutsche Welle]

The Canadian Space Agency has picked 72 finalists for its next astronaut selection round. The 72 came from an initial pool of 3,772 people who submitted applications last year to join CSA’s two current astronauts. The agency expects to select two people later this year. [Global News]

The United Arab Emirates is leaving the door open to starting its own human spaceflight program.Khalid Al Hashemi, director of space missions at the UAE Space Agency, said that while launching astronauts has not yet been formally studied by the agency, it would be “within the bounds” of the UAE’s space policy. The comments came during the Global Space Congress held this week in Abu Dhabi. [Gulf News]

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft tweaked its trajectory Wednesday as it heads towards a distant Kuiper Belt object. The spacecraft fired its thrusters for less than a minute, changing its velocity by 44 centimeters per second. That maneuver is the first since a series of burns in late 2015 that targeted the spacecraft to fly by 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day 2019. The latest maneuver adjusted the aim point for the flyby by about 10,000 kilometers. [NASA]

Volcanoes erupted on Mars for at least half of the planet’s history. Analysis of a Martian meteorite found in Africa in 2012 found that the the meteorite is a volcanic rock that formed 2.4 billion years ago. While Mars is not volcanically active today, the meteorite indicates that volcanoes were active there for at least the first half of the planet’s history. []

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...