Chinese Mars Lander Unveiled
A one-third scale model of the proposed spacecraft went on display Tuesday at the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai.
The mission, scheduled for launch in 2020, will include both an orbiter and a lander.
It will be China’s second attempt at a Mars mission, after the small Yinghuo-1 spacecraft that flew as a secondary payload on Russia’s failed Fobos-Grunt mission in 2011. [gbtimes]
Sir Richard Branson says the next SpaceShipTwo vehicle will begin testing next February. Branson said in an interview that the suborbital vehicle is nearing completion and that Virgin Galactic is “very much back on track now,” a year after the first SpaceShipTwo was lost in an accident that killed the vehicle’s co-pilot. Virgin Galactic officials previously said work on the vehicle is going well, but declined to give a schedule for resuming test flights. [Mashable]
The International Space Station partners celebrated the 15th anniversary of the arrival of the station’s first long-term crew Monday. The six-person crew currently on the station held a joint press conference to discuss both their work on the ISS and the benefits of the international partnership. The station has been continuously occupied since the arrival of the Expedition 1 crew on Nov. 2, 2000. [AP]
A joint venture has survived a protest of a NASA contract awarded earlier this year. Syncom Space Services, a joint venture of PAE and BWX Technologies Inc., won a contract in July valued at up to $1.2 billion to provide support services for NASA’s Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility. Jacobs Technology protested the award, but the GAO upheld the original contract award and Syncom said Monday it was moving ahead on the contract. [Washington Business Journal]
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The Air Force is revamping a sounding rocket program that could also support small satellite launches. The Air Force plans to make awards by late next year for the latest version of the Small Rocket Program contract, known as SRP-4. Delays in developing the SRP-4 contract forced the Air Force to seek an extension of the current SRP-3 contract, which includes vehicles provided by Orbital ATK and Space Vector Corp. [Space News]
A European venture is rethinking its plans for a commercial lunar mission after a crowdfunding effort failed. Moonspike sought to raise about $925,000 during a month-long campaign on Kickstarter in October. However, the campaign ended Nov. 1 with less than $125,000 raised; the all-or-nothing model used by Kickstarter means Moonspike ended up with no money. Moonspike said on its website that it will spend time “reviewing our options and objectives.” The company’s founders previously said they had no Plan B should the crowdfunding effort fall short. [SpaceNews]
Exploring Strange New TV Distribution Worlds
Good news for all the Star Trek fans in the space industry: CBS announced Monday that it is working on a new Star Trek television series that will debut in January 2017.
The catch: the new series will not air on the flagship CBS network but instead on its new “All Access” video-on-demand service, which has a monthly subscription fee of $5.99.
CBS offered few details about the new series in its announcement. In the meantime, subscribers to CBS All Access can watch (okay, re-watch) every episode of all five previous Star Trek TV series. [CBS]
International Launch Services is replacing its long-time general counsel. ILS said Monday that Ralph Bauer is the company’s new vice president and general counsel. He succeeds Tom Tshudy, who had been ILS general counsel since 1998 and a senior vice president since 2012. The company didn’t give an explanation for the change, which comes a month after announcing an “organizational reliagnment” to emphasize mission assurance for the Proton rocket that ILS markets commercially. [ILS]
Orbital ATK is expanding its stock buyback program. The company announced Monday that it was extending the purchase of shares from the current level of the lesser of $100 million or 1.4 million shares to $250 million or 3.2 shares through the end of 2016. The company also announced a dividend of $0.26 per share for the company’s latest fiscal quarter. [Orbital ATK]
The ground segment for the next-generation GPS system remains under heavy scrutiny. Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, has scheduled a review of the Operational Control Segment (OCX) contract for December, the second time in a year he has examined the program. Raytheon won a contract for OCX, which handles the ground segment for the GPS 3 satellites, in 2010 when it was valued at $886 million, but a recent GAO review concluded the program’s total cost has grown to $2 billion. [SpaceNews]
A new report suggests a military weather gapfiller satellite will launch years later than initially planned. A report to Congress in September on activities of the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office said that the planned Weather Satellite Gapfiller mission is scheduled for launch in 2021, three years later than previously reported. The spacecraft is designed to be a bridge between the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and a follow-on program. [SpaceNews]