A Soyuz capsule carrying three space station crew members returned to Earth early Saturday.
The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan at 5:15 a.m. Eastern time, a few hours after undocking from the station.
The Soyuz returned to Earth Tim Kopra, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Peake after spending six months in space. All three were in good health after the landing, and Kopra and Peake have returned to the U.S. and Europe, respectively. [collectSPACE]
Blue Origin launched its New Shepard suborbital vehicle on its fourth consecutive successful flight Sunday. The vehicle lifted off from its West Texas test site at 10:36 a.m. Eastern, and both its propulsion module and crew capsule landed safely less than 10 minutes later. The vehicle reached a peak altitude of about 101 kilometers on the flight, the fourth since November. The uncrewed test demonstrated the ability of the capsule to land with only two of its three parachutes open. The company also for the first time webcast the flight live. [SpaceNews]
China says it will open its future space station to the rest of the world.The agreement, signed during last week’s meeting of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, covers the flights of experiments and even people on the station. The core module of that station is scheduled for launch in 2018, with two additional modules to be added by 2022. [gbtimes]
An Ariane 5 successfully launched two communications satellites Saturday after several delays. The rocket launched from Kourou, French Guiana, at 5:40 p.m. Eastern, at the end of its launch window because of launch site issues. High winds scrubbed a launch attempt Friday. The Ariane placed into geostationary transfer orbit the EchoStar 18 and BRIsat satellites, both built by Space Systems Loral for EchoStar and BRI Bank of Indonesia, respectively. The combined mass of the payload, 9,503 kilograms, set a new record for the vehicle. [SpaceNews]
Stratolaunch is nearing completion of its giant aircraft as it seeks partners to provide launch vehicles for it. The company, in a rare media tour of its assembly facility last week, said the airplane is now three-quarters complete. Stratolaunch is in discussions with a number of unnamed companies to provide rockets that could be launched from the aircraft, with a particular emphasis on the smallsat market. The company did not state when it expects the airplane to be ready for flight tests, and would only say that it believes it can meet a goal of beginning commercial service by the end of the decade with “healthy margins.” [SpaceNews]
The service module for the next Orion mission is running three months behind schedule. The European-built service module, to be used on the Exploration Mission 1 flight in late 2018, will be shipped to the U.S. in late April of 2017, three months later than planned. The delay, ESA officials say, is because some components need more time to be integrated into the overall service module design. ESA believes that the postponed shipment of the service module should not delay the overall mission schedule. [SpaceNews]
The countdown is underway for the launch of 20 satellites on an Indian rocket.The countdown for the PSLV-C34 mission started early Monday for a launch scheduled for 11:55 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night. The PSLV is carrying the Cartosat 2C remote sensing satellite and 19 small secondary payloads from several countries, including the U.S. [IANS]