PSLV lofts India’s 1st astronomy satellite + 4 for Spire — ILS cuts Proton prices — NASA plans for a shutdown just in case

  • A PSLV launched India’s first astronomy satellite Monday. The PSLV lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 12:30 a.m. Eastern time and placed the 1,500-kilogram Astrosat into low Earth orbit. The spacecraft will perform astronomical observations at visible, ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths. The PSLV also deployed six small satellites as secondary payloads, including the first four Lemur-2 cubesats for Spire, a company that will use the spacecraft as part of a constellation for ship tracking and weather data collection. [SpaceNews / Spire]
  • A commercial space supporter has the inside track to be the next Speaker of the House. Current House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday that he will resign from Congress at the end of October, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is widely considered the leading candidate to be the next Speaker. McCarthy, whose California district includes the Mojave Air and Space Port, has been a supporter of the commercial space industry, and sponsored wide-ranging commercial space legislation that the House approved in May. Boehner’s resignation, meanwhile, makes it likely Congress will pass a continuing resolution this week, avoiding a government shutdown; Boehner could also push for a reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank next month. [SpaceNews / Washington Post]
  • NASA has updated its plans for a shutdown, just in case. In a memo Friday, NASA outlined the steps it would take should the government shut down because a funding bill isn’t passed when the new fiscal year begins Thursday. Operations of the International Space Station would continue as well as other efforts for the “protection of life and property” at NASA facilities. More than 95 percent of NASA’s workforce, though, would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown. [SpaceNews]
  • International Launch Services is cutting prices for Proton launches to win back commercial business. Industry sources said ILS won a recent contract for a Hispasat launch by offering the Proton at $65 million, nearly the same price as SpaceX’s Falcon 9. ILS is taking advantage of the decline in the ruble to cut prices in the near term, while taking other steps, including providing customers greater access to quality control procedures, to regain business lost in part due to several Proton failures in recent years. [SpaceNews]
  • A North Korean satellite launch planned for next month may be on hold. With less than two weeks to go before the expected launch, satellite photos have yet to turn up evidence of the launch vehicle being assembled at its launch site. The launch, which North Korean officials said will carry an Earth observation satellite, is widely believed outside of North Korea to be a test of a long-range ballistic missile, and a delay in the the launch could be evidence the government is considering what the international reaction to the launch could be. [Asahi Shimbun]

The Week Ahead







  • Kourou, French Guiana: An Ariane 5 will launch the Sky Muster and ARSAT-2 communications satellites.



  • Baikonur, Kazakhstan: A Soyuz rocket will launch the Progress M-29M cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station at 12:49 p.m. Eastern.


  • Cape Canaveral, Florida: An Atlas 5 rocket will launch the Morelos 2 communications satellite for Mexico at 6:08 a.m. Eastern.

  • Earth scientists still hope to get useful data out of a NASA spacecraft despite an instrument failure. The high-resolution radar on the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft failed in July, just months after the spacecraft’s launch, leaving the spacecraft with a lower-resolution radiometer. Scientists involved in the mission said the spacecraft will still provide useful data, particularly with software updates and by combining its observations with data collected by other satellites. [SpaceNews]
  • A European committee has made its recommendation for ESA’s next Earth Explorer mission. The Earth Science Advisory Committee selected the Fluorescence Explorer, or Flex, mission to map vegetation fluorescence as a way of measuring carbon stored in plants. It beat out CarbonSat, a proposed mission to map carbon and methane in the atmosphere. ESA is expected to formally approve Flex in November for a launch in 2021. [SpaceNews]
  • The first Soyuz rocket has arrived at a new Russian spaceport. The Soyuz-2.1a rocket arrived at the Vostochny Cosmodrome for a launch still scheduled for December, despite concerns work on the spaceport is behind schedule. The spaceport has been the subject of numerous allegations of fraud and embezzlement during its construction. [Siberian Times]
  • A Eutelsat satellite is in its final orbit and is set to enter commercial service a month ahead of schedule. The company said Monday its Eutelsat 115 West B satellite, launched in March on a Falcon 9, is now in its planned position in geostationary orbit. The Boeing-built satellite, launched along with one for ABS, relied solely on electric propulsion to raise its orbit. The spacecraft is expected to begin commercial service in mid-October, a month ahead of schedule. [Eutelsat]
  • A long-lived communications satellite has finally retired. Intelsat said it sent the final commands to the Leasat 5 satellite on Thursday, more than 25 years after its launch. The spacecraft was launched by the Space Shuttle Columbia in January 1990 and originally leased to the U.S. Navy. It later served other Defense Department customers, as well as the Australian Defence Force. The spacecraft’s original design life was just 10 years. [Intelsat]

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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...