U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaking with attendees at the 2015 Iowa Growth & Opportunity Party at the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. Credit: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Presidential candidate Marco Rubio said he’s concerned about Chinese anti-satellite capabilities.

Speaking at a New Hampshire town hall this week, Rubio warned that China is “practicing how to blow up our satellites.”

He did not go into details, nor discuss how he would counter that threat, but outside experts confirmed Chinese anti-satellite developments, including the country’s notorious 2007 ASAT test.

Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida seeking the Republican nomination for president. [PolitiFact]

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A top Pentagon official disputes a key argument ULA made about why it didn’t bid on a GPS satellite launch last year. In November, ULA said it decided not to bid on a GPS 3 launch in part because it didn’t have the right accounting system for a “compliant proposal.” However, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month that the Pentagon had, in fact, certified ULA’s accounting systems 10 days before the proposal deadline. Defense Department and Air Force officials met with ULA to discuss the issue prior to the proposal deadline, Work added. ULA’s decision not to bid on the launch effectively ceded the competition to SpaceX. [SpaceNews]

With a presidential transition looming, Congress wants NASA to better explain its plans for sending humans to Mars. At a House space subcommittee hearing earlier this week, members said NASA needed to provide more details in order to give the plan a better chance of surviving into the next administration. That was echoed by a panel of witnesses, which did not include NASA officials. Members also used the hearing to criticize NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission plans, while defending continued work on the SLS and Orion programs. [SpaceNews]


The countdown to a GPS satellite launch is proceeding this morning despite unfavorable weather. Forecasts call for only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at the scheduled 8:38 am Eastern launch time of the Atlas 5 rocket carrying the GPS 2F-12 satellite. Gusty winds are the primary launch concern. The launch will be the last of the Block 2F series of GPS satellites. [Spaceflight Now]

There’s more confirmation that OneWeb will set up a satellite manufacturing facility in Florida with help from the state. Sources confirmed that OneWeb is the “Project Sabal” that Space Florida discussed at a recent board meeting, an effort that involves a $36 million manufacturing facility that will create 250 jobs. The state would contribute $17.5 million towards the cost of the facility, which would be used by an Airbus-OneWeb joint venture to manufacture hundreds of satellites for OneWeb’s broadband constellation. [Florida Today]

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The primary mirror for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now complete. The agency announced Thursday that technicians have installed the 18th and final hexagonal mirror segment of the space telescope’s primary mirror, 6.5 meters across. Workers will now install other elements of the telescope’s optical system and its instrument module, which will then undergo a series of tests. [NASA]

Satellite operator Avanti reported flat revenue in the last six months, but promised growth in the next six months. The London-based company said it had $31 million in revenue in the last six months of 2015, unchanged when compared to the last half of 2014. However, the company said it expected its revenue to grow by 50 percent for all of fiscal year 2016 because of a growing backlog. [SpaceNews]

Harris Corporation plans to make additional cuts at its CapRock Communications unit because of declining demand for satellite bandwidth. Harris said it will reduce staff at CapRock by 20 percent as the unit’s revenue, once $400 million a year, drops to as low as $250 million. Harris blamed the decline on lower demand for satellite services from energy companies due to the sharp drop in oil prices. Harris took a $367 million non-cash impairment charge to reflect that decline. [SpaceNews]

A European observatory is preparing to finalize the contract for building the world’s largest optical telescope. A committee of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) authorized observatory officials to begin final negotiations with an Italian consortium to build the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in Chile. ESO hopes to sign a contract with the consortium in May. E-ELT, estimated to cost $1.2 billion, will feature a segmented mirror 39 meters in diameter, and will be ready for operations by the mid-2020s. [Reuters]

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...