Branson said he has put in a bid to operate its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle from a future spaceport, whose site has yet to be selected from a list of several existing airports by the British government.
Branson added that Virgin Galactic would be environmentally friendly, becoming carbon-neutral in two to three years, although he did not provide details about how the company would achieve that goal. [The Independent]
Construction workers at Russian’s new spaceport aren’t getting much of a New Year’s holiday. Crews resumed work at the site in Russia’s Far East on Saturday after just one day off, compared to the traditional Russian 10-day New Year’s holiday. The spaceport, which previously was supposed to be completed by the end of 2015, is now under schedule pressure to support a first launch in late April. [TASS]
The Falcon 9 first stage that successfully landed last month survived the trip without damage. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the stage, which landed at Cape Canaveral ten minutes after liftoff Dec. 21, had suffered no damage and is “ready to fire again.” The company also released photos of the stage, now in a company hangar near Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Musk previously said the stage would be used for static fire tests at LC-39A, but would not fly again. [SpaceNews]
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Space Systems Loral won a contract to build an Indonesian communications satellite. SSL announced Wednesday it won the contract from government-owned satellite operator PT Telkom for the Telkom-4 satellite, which will replace the aging Telkom-1 satellite at 108 degrees east in GEO. The companies did not announce a launch date for Telkom-4. [SpaceNews]
Russia has declared the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle fully operational. A Russian test commission announced Wednesday that the Soyuz-2.1a and 1b versions of the vehicle have successfully completed their test program and have turned over operations of the vehicles to the Russian Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos. The vehicles have launched dozens of times on operational missions over the last several years, and the statement did not explain why the test program was only now considered complete. [Sputnik]
The engineer who guided the Curiosity Mars rover through its “seven minutes of terror” is critical of the agency’s lack of missions. In a new book, Adam Steltzner, who led development of Curiosity’s entry, descent and landing systems, argues that NASA “doesn’t do enough flight projects to forge a broad set of practical skills.” The limited number of missions and long development times for those missions creates “a time constant that defeats learning,” he claims. [Forbes]
The first South Korean in space is looking for work in Seattle. Soyeon Yi, who flew to the International Space Station in 2008, is adjusting to life in a Seattle suburb, doing part-time teaching. Yi said she would like to find a job in Seattle’s burgeoning commercial space industry, and has had talks with Blue Origin. [The Olympian]
Space fact and fiction will be featured on postage stamps in 2016. The U.S. Postal Service plans to release a set of stamps featuring Pluto and New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft that flew past the dwarf planet last July. The service will release a separate set of stamps with updated images of the solar system’s eight planets, plus one of the moon. Also scheduled for release this year: a set of stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. [collectSPACE]
The Week Ahead
- Kissimmee, Fla.: The 227th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society will include various presentations on astronomical research, as well as town halls by NASA and the NSF.
- San Diego: The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics holds its 2016 SciTech Forum and Exposition, including panel sessions on technology, exploration and policy. Some sessions will be webcast.
- Houston: NASA holds a press conference with members of the next International Space Station crew at 2 p.m. Eastern.