FIRST UP | Your Thursday Briefing

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GPS 3 launch RFP — Ariane 5 launch — Wallops pad repairs — Boeing wins Sea Launch judgement —CR passes, Shutdown averted (for now)

An Ariane 5 launched two communications satellites Wednesday. The Ariane 5 lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, on schedule at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time and placed the Arsat-2 and Sky Muster satellites for Argentina and Australia, respectively, into orbit. The launch was the fifth Ariane 5 mission of 2015. [NASASpaceFlight.com]

The federal government is open today after Congress passed a short-term spending bill Wednesday with just hours to spare. The continuing resolution (CR), passed by the Senate and House earlier in the day and signed into law by President Obama Wednesday evening, funds the government at fiscal year 2015 levels through Dec. 11. The CR does allow NOAA to spend at higher levels to keep the Joint Polar Satellite System on schedule, but does not include a similar provision requested by the administration for NASA’s commercial crew program. [Roll Call]
NASA selected proposals for asteroid and Venus missions for the next round of its Discovery program. Of the five proposals NASA selected for additional study, two involve missions to Venus, two are for missions to asteroids, and the fifth is an observatory to search for near Earth asteroids. Each proposal receives $3 million for additional studies, with NASA making a final selection next September. [SpaceNews]


 

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Intelsat is dismissing rumors that it is interesting in selling off part of its satellite fleet to pay down debt. Speaking at an investor conference Tuesday, company CFO Michael McDonnell didn’t directly address rumors that the company might sell the portion of its fleet that serves North America. However, he said the company has an “integrated network” of satellites, none of which it considers to be non-core assets it might sell off. The company currently has $14.75 billion in debt, nearly eight times its annual earnings. [SpaceNews]

Boeing won a court judgement in a case against some of its partners in the Sea Launch venture. In a ruling Monday, a federal judge ruled that formal documents tying Boeing to RSC Energia of Russia and Yuzhnoye of Ukraine overruled any unwritten communications deemed inadmissible in U.S., British, or Swedish courts. The ruling sets the stage for a trial in November where Boeing is expected to win $356 million from Energia and Yuzhnoye for expenses it is owed for the commercial launch joint venture. It’s unclear, though, if Boeing will be able to collect should it win the court case. [SpaceNews]

That Other Mysterious Dwarf Planet

ceres_topographic_map_dawnWhile some planetary scientists continue to puzzle over images that New Horizons took of the dwarf planet Pluto, others are scratching their heads over images of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt, taken by NASA’s Dawn orbiter. New images released this week by the mission include this color-coded topographic map of the crater Occator, which contain bright spots whose origin still eludes scientists. “Ceres continues to amaze, yet puzzle us, as we examine our multitude of images, spectra and now energetic particle bursts,” said Dawn principal investor Chris Russell at a European planetary science conference this week. [NASA/JPL]

 

A European company is seeking to raise nearly $1 million through a crowdfunding campaign to start work on a lunar mission. Moonspike is starting a month-long effort on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to start work on the development of a small spacecraft to crash-land on the moon and a rocket to launch it. Moonspike’s founders say they are driven primarily by seeing if such a mission is possible, but are open to any future commercial applications, particularly for the launch vehicle. Backers of the campaign can include images and other data on the spacecraft, among other rewards. [SpaceNews]

Antrix plans to appeal a $672 million judgement against it by international arbitrators. Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, said the award to Devas Multimedia was “shocking” and that they would seek remedy in Indian courts. Devas, which argued that Antrix improperly canceled a contract to lease S-band capacity on two Indian satellites, said in a statement that it hopes Antrix will pay the judgement as soon as possible. [SpaceNews]

The Air Force released a request for proposals Wednesday for the launch of a GPS 3 satellite. The mission is the first of nine competitive launches planned by the service as outlined in its fiscal year 2016 budget request, making it open to both SpaceX and ULA. Proposals are due Nov. 16. [U.S. Air Force]

Blue Origin says it is making progress in the development of its BE-4 engine. The company said Wednesday it has completed more than 100 staged-combustion tests of engine components, testing both the engine design and manufacturing techniques as the company prepares for an upcoming critical design review. Blue Origin is developing the BE-4 for its own orbital launch vehicle as well as for ULA’s Vulcan rocket. [SpaceNews]

Repairs to a damaged Virginia launch pad are now complete. The Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority said Wednesday that it has completed repairs to Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. The pad, used by Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket, suffered about $15 million in damages after an Antares launch failure last October. The Antares, with a new first stage engine, is scheduled to resume launches there no sooner than March 2016. [AP]