Raytheon and United Technologies (UTC) announced a “merger of equals” Sunday intended to create a leading aerospace and defense firm. The all-stock transaction would create a company called Raytheon Technologies with an estimated $74 billion in annual sales. Raytheon is best known in the space industry as a developer of spacecraft instruments as well as the OCX ground system for GPS 3 satellites. UTC owns Collins Aerospace, which make some spacecraft components among other products. The companies said they don’t expect any antitrust issues from the merger, which should close by early 2020. [New York Times]

A tweet by President Trump Friday sowed confusion about the future of NASA’s lunar exploration plans. Trump, on his way back from Europe Friday afternoon, tweeted, “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago,” adding that NASA should be “focused on the much bigger things we are doing” such as Mars. Several hours later, NASA and White House officials said that the administration was still committed to sending humans back to the moon, noting it was long-standing policy that Mars was the ultimate goal of NASA’s human spaceflight efforts. Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, said at a conference Saturday that Trump’s tweet reflected “a very understandable impatience” with going to Mars and that those working on the lunar plans don’t “always do a good job speaking to the larger vision that this is part of.” [SpaceNews]

NASA rolled out a multipronged strategy Friday for increasing commercial use of the International Space Station. NASA will allow greater commercial use of the station, publishing a price list for station resources, and will also allow two private astronauts a year to visit the station on commercial crew vehicles for up to 30 days at a time. NASA will soon release a solicitation for use of a docking port on the station that could host commercial modules, and will support separate studies of commercial free-flying stations. Other parts of the study will focus on stimulating commercial demand and better describing NASA’s long-term demand for services in low Earth orbit. Greater commercialization of the ISS, NASA argues, could help support development of commercial LEO facilities, allowing NASA to eventually transition away from the ISS. [SpaceNews]

The next launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket has slipped two days. Air Force officials said Friday the Falcon Heavy launch of the Space Test Program (STP) 2 mission, which had been scheduled for June 22, will now take place no earlier than June 24. The Air Force said the work needed to finish integrating the various satellite payloads for the mission and complete launch operation preparations prompted the delay. The STP-2 mission will carry 24 satellites that will be placed in three different orbits using four burns of the rocket’s upper stage. [Spaceflight Now]

Advocates for the Export-Import Bank want to see it reauthorized for 10 years, much longer than in the past. At a House Financial Services Committee hearing about the bank last week, advocates for the bank argued that a long-term reauthorization would provide more stability as the U.S. faces growing competition from China, including in the space business. They also sought changes that would allow the bank to approve deals larger than $10 million even if a quorum of the bank’s board was not present. The bank only recently regained the ability to approve large deals with the confirmation of three board members. The bank’s current authorization lapses at the end of September. [SpaceNews]

Russia is planning a new satellite constellation for Internet of Things services. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said a new group of Gonets-2 satellites will be used for communicating with Internet of Things devices, particular those related with infrastructure like bridges and railroads, similar to systems being developed by a number of companies. Rogozin didn’t say when the new constellation would be deployed. [TASS]

The last “single-stick” Delta 4 rocket has arrived at the launch pad for a July launch. The Delta 4 Medium+ (4,2) rocket is being built up at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral to launch the second GPS 3 satellite July 25. United Launch Alliance is retiring the Medium, or “single-stick,” version of the Delta 4 because of its cost, but will continue flying the triple-core Delta 4 Heavy well into the 2020s. [Spaceflight Now]

Japanese airline ANA is working with the Japanese space agency JAXA on ways to use satellite data to optimize flight paths. The ongoing study is examining how satellite data on upper-level winds over the oceans could be used by the airline to refine flight paths and reduce fuel consumption. Doing so would require the use of a satellite equipped with a Doppler lidar sensor, something JAXA has proposed developing. [Kyodo]

Even robots need to slim down to be able to go to space. Roscosmos will launch a humanoid robot called FEDOR on an uncrewed Soyuz launch in August intended to test the use of the Soyuz-2 rocket for launching that spacecraft. Engineers, though, found that FEDOR’s shoulders are too broad to fit through the Soyuz hatch, requiring modifications to the robot. The Soyuz will dock with the ISS, and cosmonauts will bring FEDOR into the station for testing. [Interfax]

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...