China launches Gaofen-3 high-resolution radar imaging satellite
China launched an Earth observation satellite Tuesday. A Long March 4C rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 6:55 p.m. Eastern time and placed the Gaofen-3 satellite into orbit.
The satellite carries a synthetic aperture radar payload that can produce images with a resolution of one meter.
The satellite will be used for civil applications, including environmental monitoring and disaster warning, according to state media. [Xinhua]
SpaceX says it can serve the needs of the growing small satellite market with its large launch vehicles. Company president Gwynne Shotwell, speaking at the Conference on Small Satellites Tuesday, said the company likes to work with aggregators like Spaceflight to sell secondary payload space as well as “dedicated rideshare” missions. SpaceX originally planned to serve the smallsat market with its Falcon 1, but retired the vehicle after a 2009 launch because of a lack of sales. Shotwell said there are no plans to revive that vehicle despite a surge in smallsat demand. Shotwell also said the company shipped it first Raptor engine, intended for future heavy-lift launch vehicles, to its Texas test site earlier this week to begin testing. [SpaceNews]
The U.S. Air Force is seeking ideas from industry regarding how to prevent gaps in weather data. The Air Force issued a broad agency announcement last week seeking solutions for cloud characterization and theater weather imagery by 2019. Those solutions could include the purchase of a satellite or data from a commercially operated spacecraft. White papers are due Aug. 15, with up to five study contracts, each worth up to $500,000, to be awarded in December. [SpaceNews]
Japan is delaying the launch of a cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. The Japanese space agency JAXA announced Wednesday the H-2B launch of an HTV cargo spacecraft, previously scheduled for Oct. 1, would be postponed because of a “slight leak” of air pressure in the spacecraft. A new launch date has not been announced. The spacecraft will carry several tons of supplies, including a new set of batteries, to the ISS. [JAXA]
Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a dip in revenue and earnings in its fiscal second quarter. The company reported net income of $5.9 million on sales of $408.4 million in the quarter, compared to net income of $17.3 million on sales of $457.8 million in the same quarter of 2015. The company said the timing of deliveries on missile contracts accounted for much of the decrease in revenue, while last year’s net income was boosted by a one-time sale of company property. Aerojet Rocketdyne also reported it has spent $105 million to date on development of the AR1 engine, with about a third of that directly reimbursed by the Air Force and United Launch Alliance. [Sacramento Business Journal]
A pair of Air Force space surveillance satellites have been mounted on top a Delta 4 rocket for launch next week. The two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites will launch between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. Eastern Aug. 19 on a Delta 4 Medium-Plus rocket from Cape Canaveral. The Orbital ATK-built spacecraft will track and characterize objects in the geostationary belt. [Spaceflight Now]
Deep Space Industries (DSI) unveiled the design of its first asteroid prospecting spacecraft Tuesday. The Prospector-1 spacecraft will launch by the end of the decade and travel to a near Earth asteroid. Prospector-1’s instruments will look for deposits of water ice, and the spacecraft will eventually land on the surface to study them in greater detail. DSI’s long-term plans call for mining water from asteroids for use as propellant. [Ars Technica]
NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission is facing potential cost growth. Agency officials said a review known as Key Decision Point B, conducted July 15, indicated the proposed cost of the robotic element of ARM was growing, and NASA was studying whether to accept that increase or reduce scope to bring costs down. The agency has not formally announced the results of that review. ARM remains controversial in Congress, where a House spending bill would block funding for the mission, and it’s uncertain a new administration will continue the mission. [SpacePolicyOnline.com]
Space scientists may have helped save the world in 1967. On May 23, 1967, all three ballistic missile early warning radar sites operated by the U.S. Air Force in the northern hemisphere were jammed, which some feared to be a precursor to a Soviet attack. The Air Force was preparing to scramble additional bombers to fly on alert when solar physicists said the jamming was instead caused by a powerful solar flare that erupted that day. “Things were going horribly wrong, and then something goes commendably right,” said the author of a new study about that incident. [SPACE.com]