China’s Yutu rover was delivered to the lunar surface during the Chang’e-3 mission. Credit: CNSA
China’s Yutu rover was delivered to the lunar surface in late 2013 during the Chang’e-3 mission. Credit: CNSA

China’s lunar rover has set a record, despite not doing much roving.

The Yutu rover, which has been on the surface of the moon for nearly two years, now holds the record for the longest stay by a rover, Chinese officials said.

The catch is that while some instruments on Yutu continue to work, the rover itself has been unable to move since early 2014, when it suffered a technical problem that nearly ended the mission. [Xinhua]

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A two-year budget deal is now a done deal. The Senate approved early Friday a bill that raises spending caps for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and also increases the debt limit. The House passed the same bill on Wednesday. The bill provides for $80 billion in additional spending over two years, split evenly between defense and other discretionary programs. How those additional funds will be apportioned — including how much additional funding, if any, agencies like NASA would receive — has yet to be determined. Congress has until Dec. 11 to replace a stop-gap spending measure, called a continuing resolution, with fresh appropriations. [POLITICO]

A NASA team could not find a single root cause for last year’s Antares launch failure. The executive summary of the NASA Independent Review Team’s report on the failure, released late Thursday by NASA, identified three technical root causes that, individually or in combination, could have caused the turbopump fire and explosion in the the rocket’s first stage engine. Those three causes include “inadequate design robustness” of the engine, foreign object debris inside the engine, and a manufacturing defect. That conclusion contrasts with Orbital’s own investigation, which found a single “highly probable” root cause in the form of a manufacturing defect. [SpaceNews]

A launch pad problem will delay an Atlas launch scheduled for today. A faulty valve in launch pad equipment forced United Launch Alliance to delay an Atlas 5 launch of a GPS satellite by 24 hours. The valve, part of the water suppression system on the pad, will be repaired or replaced. The launch is now scheduled for 12:13 p.m. Eastern Saturday, with a 90 percent chance of acceptable weather. [Florida Today]

Iridium is delaying the launch of its first next-generation satellites because of a component issue. The company said Thursday that the launch of the first two Iridium Next satellites on a Dnepr rocket, previously scheduled for December, is now planned for no earlier than April. The company blamed the delay on a problem with a Ka-band transmit/receive module, a component built by ViaSat. Iridium still expects to deploy the entire 72-satellite constellation, primarily using SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, by late 2017. [SpaceNews]

Eutelsat will fly solo on an Ariane 5 launch in early 2016. The company said it decided to launch its Eutelsat 65 West A as the sole payload on an Ariane 5 in early 2016 after trouble finding a suitable second satellite to share the launch. Single-satellite Ariane 5 launches are relatively rare, but in addition to Eutelsat, Intelsat also will launch its Intelsat 29e spacecraft on an Ariane 5 next year without a co-passenger. [Spaceflight Now]

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Canadian satellite company MDA says it’s been hurt harder by the closure of the Ex-Im Bank than any other company. MDA, which owns California-based maufacturer Space Systems Loral, said the lapse in Ex-Im authorization in July has hurt its business, event though it can still access Canadian export credit financing. MDA also said it expects work on its role in the OneWeb satellite constellation to ramp up in 2016, although it does not have any contracts in place yet. [SpaceNews]

Crescent Pluto

The New Horizons mission team released Oct. 29 t his image of a backlit crescent view of Pluto, taken just 15 minutes after closest approach to the distant world in July. A portion of the image was released earlier, but the full view has been brought back from the spacecraft showing the dwarf planet's rugged topography and haze layers in its tenuous atmosphere. Credit: JHUAPL
The New Horizons mission team released Thursday this image of a backlit crescent view of Pluto, taken just 15 minutes after closest approach to the distant world in July. A portion of the image was released earlier, but the full view has been brought back from the spacecraft showing the dwarf planet’s rugged topography and haze layers in its tenuous atmosphere. New Horizons, meanwhile, made the third in a series of four maneuvers Wednesday to put the spacecraft on course to fly by a Kuiper Belt object at the beginning of 2019. [JHUAPL]

DigitalGlobe reported an increase in revenue Thursday as the company revamps its business strategy. The company reported $173 million in revenue in the third quarter, an increase of 12 percent from a year ago, with a net income of $9.6 million. In a conference call with analysts, CEO Jeffrey Tarr said DigitalGlobe was moving away from providing industry-specific data products, because of their high cost and low return on investment, and moving instead to “a more scalable horizontal approach.” DigitalGlobe is also making plans to develop replacements for its existing WorldView-1 and -2 satellites. [Denver Post]

A new report is skeptical that NASA can address all the human health risks of a mission to Mars by the 2030s. The report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General said the agency “still faces significant challenges” in human health issues, such as radiation and microgravity, and it may be optimistic to think those can be solved by the time NASA wants to send humans to Mars. NASA agreed with the report’s assessment. [AP]

The United Nations voted Thursday to add Israel to its outer space committee. The UN voted 117–1 to add Israel to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, with only Namibia voting against the proposal. Previous efforts by Israel to join the committee had faced opposition from some Arab nations. [Arutz Sheva]


One of two NASA employees charged with giving a Chinese national unrestricted access to computer systems pleaded guilty Thursday. Glenn A. Woodell, who retired from NASA’s Langley Research Center in January, said he pleaded guilty to avoid a legal battle, even though he believed NASA’s overall regulations made it unclear what networks were restricted. A federal judge sentenced him to six months probation and a $500 fine. Woodell and Daniel J. Jobson were indicted earlier this month linked to the case of Bo Jiang, a Chinese national who worked at Langley and was charged with, but not convicted of, espionage. [Hampton Roads Daily Press]

Lowe’s will be opening a hardware store in space — sort of. The store announced a partnership with Made In Space, the California company developing 3-D printers for use on the International Space Station. A new printer Made In Space is flying to the station in the first half of 2016 will be able to print Lowe’s-branded tools. A replica of the printer will also go on display in a Lowe’s here on Earth to demonstrate the capabilities of such printers. []

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...