Cygnus cargo spacecraft reentered Sunday, completing two-month mission
The Cygnus reentered over the South Pacific shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern, a week after departing the ISS.
During the time after its departure, the spacecraft deployed four cubesats and performed a fire experiment.
The spacecraft was carrying nearly 2,000 kilograms of cargo for disposal. Orbital ATK says it’s prepared to launch up to two more Cygnus missions this year for NASA on Antares rockets, depending on the station’s cargo needs. [Orbital ATK]
United Launch Alliance says the company wasn’t given the opportunity to bid on an X-37B launch awarded to SpaceX. Company CEO Tory Bruno said on Twitter Friday that ULA wasn’t offered a chance to propose launching the fifth X-37B mission, which the Air Force said earlier last week would be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in August. The first four X-37B missions were all launched by ULA on Atlas 5 rockets. The Air Force declined to comment on the contract. [SpaceNews]
The former CEO of Thuraya has joined OneWeb. Samer Halawi left Thuraya in March for an undisclosed position with a U.S. company, which he confirmed last week is OneWeb. As the company’s chief commercial officer, Halawi said he is working on “commercial activities, business development, and growth” for OneWeb, which is developing a broadband satellite constellation. [SpaceNews]
Cuts to NASA’s education office and Earth science missions received scrutiny in two House hearings. In back-to-back hearings Thursday, members of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee and the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee raised questions about plans in the budget proposal to close NASA’s education office and cancel five Earth science projects. The education cuts in particular received bipartisan criticism. High-profile programs like SLS, Orion and commercial crew received less attention at the two hearings. [SpaceNews]
A startup that has a partnership with Thuraya seeks to provide machine-to-machine communications with cubesats. Else, a Swiss company, is planning a constellation of 64 cubesats that will provide low-rate communications for Internet of Things applications. Else announced a partnership with Thuraya in April to collaborate on technical and regulatory fronts, along with combined sales and marketing of products. The company is planning to launch its first two demonstration cubesats this year, and is raising a seed round of funding. Else’s chief financial officer is Kjell Karlsen, the former president of Sea Launch. [SpaceNews]
South America can serve as a laboratory for testing new geospatial intelligence capabilities, according to a senior military official. U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, head of U.S. Southern Command, said his command is using geospatial intelligence, including satellite imagery, to keep track of activities by drug cartels. Such intelligence is also used for disaster recovery and monitoring illegal mining and deforestation. Tidd said he is open to using new approaches and technologies, including stratospheric balloons. [SpaceNews]
Sir Richard Branson has reiterated his desire to start flying people on SpaceShipTwo next year. In an interview excerpt, he said he would be “very disappointed” if he doesn’t fly in space on the suborbital vehicle next year, adding “I would hope it’s earlier than later in the year.” He said he believed SpaceShipTwo would make its first powered test flight into space by the end of this year. That timeline is similar to what Branson offered in an interview earlier this year, although the company itself has shied away from giving any schedules for its flight test program or beginning commercial service. [British GQ]
NASA Wallops has resumed attempts to launch a sounding rocket, but is still suffering from delays. A launch of a Terrier-Improved Malemute scheduled for Sunday night was postponed because of boats in a hazard zone. NASA plans to make another attempt to launch the rocket tonight. Several attempts earlier this month were postponed by range or weather issues. The rocket will release chemicals in the upper atmosphere to create artificial clouds that could be visible along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to New York. [WMDT-TV]
For the second time in as many months, a NASA balloon mission has ended in failure. NASA said that it lost the Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry (BETTII) astronomy payload when the payload separated from its parachute while descending to the ground at the scheduled end of a brief balloon mission Friday. The payload was destroyed, but there were no reports of injuries or damage as it fell in a remote area northeast of Sterling City, Texas. Two more balloon flights are on hold while an investigation into this failure takes place. A balloon mission last month ended prematurely over the Pacific Ocean because a leak in the balloon, resulting in the loss of its cosmic ray instrument payload. [NASA Wallops]
An experiment flying to the ISS next year will be the first to attempt to bake bread in space. The “Bake in Space” experiment, developed by a German group, will attempt to create bread rolls using a compact low-energy oven and a special dough. The experiment will test if the system can create a “palatable, but crumb-free” bread. Concerns about crumbs floating in weightlessness have kept bread off spaceflight menus for decades, with tortillas substituting for them in many cases. [collectSPACE]