ESA astronaut Tim Peake trying on his Sokol flight suit early this month. ESA says Soyuz astronauts get to try their spacecraft and suits for the first time two weeks before launch. Credit: NASA/Victo​r Zelentsov

A Soyuz rocket is on the pad, ready to launch a new crew to the ISS tomorrow. The Soyuz moved to the pad early Sunday for its launch at 6:03 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

The rocket will launch a Soyuz spacecraft carrying American astronaut Tim Kopra, British astronaut Tim Peake, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko to the ISS. [BBC]

In advance of Tim Peake’s launch, the British government has released its first National Space Policy.

The policy, released Sunday, calls for the U.K. to become “the European hub for commercial spaceflight and related space sector technologies.”

The document lays out the roles and responsibilities of various government agencies to achieve that goal, led by the U.K. Space Agency. [The Independent / U.K. Space Agency]

More News

A Proton rocket launched a Russian military communications satellite Saturday. The Proton lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:19 p.m. Eastern time and placed the Garpun satellite into geostationary transfer orbit nine hours later. The satellite is the second in a series of military communications satellites. The launch was delayed three days to allow technicians to inspect the satellite separation system on the rocket’s upper stage after another Russian military satellite failed to separate from its upper stage in a launch earlier this month. []

What may be the final Zenit rocket successfully launched Friday. The Zenit-3SLBF rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:45 a.m. Eastern time and placed the Elektro-L 2 weather satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. The launch may be the last for the Zenit family of rockets, given poor relations between Russia and Ukraine, which builds the rocket, and a lack of commercial business for Sea Launch. [Sputnik International]

SpaceX is planning four Falcon 9 launches in the next two months, starting as soon as Saturday. SpaceX is planning to launch 11 Orbcomm satellites on a Falcon 9 Saturday evening from Cape Canaveral, pending the outcome of a static fire test scheduled for Wednesday. That launch would be followed by the launch of SES-9 from the Cape in mid-January and the Jan. 17 launch of the Jason-3 ocean science satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The next Dragon cargo mission to the ISS is now scheduled for launch in February, allowing the station’s crew to perform a mid-January spacewalk. [Spaceflight Now]

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Northrop Grumman says it’s interested in bidding on a new round of GPS satellites. Company officials said they expect to bid on the next group of GPS 3 satellites when the Air Force opens the competition for them as soon as next year. Lockheed Martin has the contract for the initial set of eight GPS 3 satellites. Northrop Grumman is also interested in bidding on the GPS ground system if part of that system is reopened for competition. [Reuters]

Japanese government officials say they want their country to be an equal partner with the U.S. in space. At a recent forum in Washington, a member of the Japanese parliament suggested that Japan and the U.S. could cooperate more closely on navigation satellite systems, including having Japan build and launch some spacecraft. Officials with the two countries also said that while there is not yet a final agreement to extend Japan’s participation on the ISS, they expect that to be completed soon. [SpaceNews]

Wade Larson is the new CEO of UrtheCast. The company announced last week that Larson, who had been president of the commercial remote sensing company, will succeed Scott Larson, who is leaving the company. Scott Larson said in a statement that “it is the right time” to step back from the company, where he remains a major shareholder. Wade Larson will continue to be president and chief operating officer of the Vancouver-based company. [UrtheCast]

China is adding spaceflight references to its currency. A new 100-yuan note and 10-yuan coin issued by China’s central bank show the country’s Shenzhou 9 crewed spacecraft docking with the Tiangong-1 lab module in Earth orbit. Other elements included on the new currency include China’s first satellite, Dongfanghong-1; and the Yutu lunar rover. The new currency is a special commemorative issue and, while legal tender, is not planned for general circulation. [collectSPACE]


The Week Ahead


  • San Francisco: The Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union takes place, with multiple sessions on Earth and planetary sciences research. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is also scheduled to speak at the conference at 1 p.m. Eastern Tuesday.


  • Baikonur, Kazakhstan: A Soyuz rocket will launch a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three people to the ISS at 6:03 a.m. Eastern.
  • Washington: The Washington Space Business Roundtable holds a luncheon panel discussion on “DoD’s Pivot to Commercial SATCOM.”



  • Sriharikota, India: India’s PSLV rocket is planned to launch a remote sensing satellite and five smaller spacecraft, all built by organizations in Singapore, at 7:30 a.m. Eastern.
  • Jiuquan, China: A Long March 2D rocket is scheduled to launch a Chinese astronomy satellite called DAMPE.
  • Washington: The Space Transportation Association hosts a luncheon with Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS at NASA Headquarters, as the speaker.



  • Kourou, French Guiana: A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch two Galileo navigation satellites at 6:51 a.m. Eastern.


  • Cape Canaveral, Fla.: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is currently scheduled to launch 11 Orbcomm satellites during a launch window of 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, on the Falcon 9’s return to flight mission.

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...