China ready to move ahead with development of a space station after refueling tests

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Chinese officials said Friday they’re ready to move ahead with development of a space station after testing refueling technologies in space.

The Tianzhou-1 spacecraft successfully transferred propellant to the Tiangong-2 module this week after docking with the lab module on Saturday.

That test, officials said, clears the way for development of a permanent space station, with various components to be launched between 2019 and 2022. [Reuters]


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NASA now acknowledges that the first launch of the Space Launch System will slip to 2019. In a response to a GAO report issued Thursday, NASA said that holding the current November 2018 date for the EM-1 mission “is not in the best interest in the program” and that NASA was in the process of determining a new launch date, sometime in 2019. The GAO report concluded, prior to NASA’s response, that EM-1 was likely to be delayed because of various issues with the rocket, Orion spacecraft and ground systems that had depleted cost and schedule reserves on those programs. [SpaceNews]

Weather looks good for Sunday’s scheduled launch of a Falcon 9 from Florida. Forecasts issued Thursday predict an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather during a two-hour launch window that opens at 7 a.m. Eastern at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The Falcon 9 is carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on a mission designated NROL-76. The NRO released the mission’s patch Thursday, which the agency says represents “Lewis & Clark heading into the great unknown.” [Florida Today / Twitter @NatReconOfc ]

Congress is set to pass a one-week stopgap spending bill Friday to at least delay the threat of a government shutdown. The House is scheduled to vote on the continuing resolution (CR) Friday after delaying a vote on a healthcare bill that threatened to jeopardize the deal, with the Senate to follow. The current CR funding government agencies expires tonight. The new CR funds the government through May 5, giving appropriators more time to finalize a spending bill for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year. [Washington Post]

Russia’s deputy prime minister said recent dismissals of several veteran cosmonauts are part of “a planned renewal” of the Russian cosmonaut corps. Dmitry Rogozin said Thursday that the average age of cosmonauts is 53, and that Roscosmos needed new, younger cosmonauts as it plans for activities beyond the end of the International Space Station in 2024. Roscosmos dismissed three veteran cosmonauts earlier this week, after another, Gennady Padalka, announced plans to resign. [TASS]

The Canadian government will provide funding for two new space projects, ministers announced Thursday. The Canadian Space Agency will receive $80.9 million (US$59.3 million) over five years to develop a radar mapping instrument for a future NASA Mars orbiter mission and a test of quantum communications technologies in space. The agency also announced plans to award grants to Canadian universities to fund the development of cubesats. [Canadian Press / CSA]

NASA released Thursday the first images taken by the Cassini spacecraft as it made its dive between Saturn and its rings. The images show a giant cyclonic storm and a large number of small, filamentary clouds, which scientists taking their first look at the images found particularly interesting. The images came from a close approach earlier this week, the first of 22 in the “Grand Finale” phase of the mission that ends with Cassini’s plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in mid-September. [Science News]

The U.S. Postal Service will release a first-of-its-kind stamp to commemorate an upcoming solar eclipse. The stamp, set to debut June 20, shows an image of a solar eclipse. Touching the black disk in the center activates thermochromic ink to reveal an image of the full moon. The stamp marks the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse that will be visible on a path cutting across the country, from Oregon to South Carolina. [GeekWire]