Former SpaceX exec joins rocket startup
A former SpaceX executive is now working for Rocket Lab. The company announced it has hired Garrett Katzenstein as its vice president of product and mission management.
He was previously the senior manager for mission and launch operations at SpaceX, and also worked on Mars missions at JPL.
Rocket Lab is developing a small launch vehicle called the Electron, whose first launch, from New Zealand, is now planned for later this year. [Rocket Lab]
India is planning its own comprehensive space act for passage by next year. The legislation, under development since last year, would cover how the country would regulate commercial space activities, international cooperation, and related topics. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, said he expects the bill to be passed by the country’s parliament by next year. [The Hindu]
SpaceX aborted a Falcon 9 launch at the last second Sunday night. Computers aborted the launch as the rocket’s main engines ignited at 7:21 p.m. Eastern last night. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said a “low thrust alarm” aborted the launch, which he blamed on rising liquid oxygen temperatures and a helium bubble. A delay of more than a half-hour in the launch, caused by a boat in restricted waters offshore, may have contributed to the problem. SpaceX has not announced a date for the next attempt to launch the SES-9 satellite, but it is not expected before Tuesday. [SpaceNews]
A key House member warned that the Air Force’s plans to invest in a new launch system would violate law. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said last week that the National Defense Authorization Act requires the Air Force to spend money on a new engine, not a new launch system. Air Force officials have said that investing in just a new engine could be inefficient. Rogers suggested, though, that he would accept a plan that where the Air Force spends additional money on a launch system, provided they also develop a new engine as part of it. [SpaceNews]
The European Union has decided to perform an in-depth antitrust probe into Airbus Safran Launchers’ acquisition of a stake in Arianespace. European regulators said Friday they decided to further investigate the planned sale of the French space agency CNES’ 35 percent stake in Arianespace to Airbus Safran, the new joint venture that already owns 39 percent of Arianespace. Regulators were concerned that giving Airbus Safran majority control of Arianespace could affect competition, such as discriminating against satellite manufacturers competing with Airbus. The European Commission has until July to make a decision on the deal. [Wall Street Journal]
China is planning to launch its Tiangong-2 space lab in the third quarter of this year. State media reported Sunday on the launch plans, refining a launch date previously expected some time this year. China’s next crewed mission, Shenzhou-11, will then launch to the new lab in the fourth quarter, followed by an uncrewed cargo spacecraft in the first half of 2017. [Xinhua]
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Telesat is ordering two small Ka-band satellites that could test technologies for a future satellite constellation. The company has not announced who is manufacturing the satellites, although Space Systems Loral is a likely candidate given previous statements about experimental small satellite work. The satellites are scheduled to launch into low Earth orbit in 2017 as possible precursors to a larger constellation of satellites there. [SpaceNews]
The U.S. and South Korea have signed a space cooperation agreement. The agreement, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry, is intended to support future civil cooperation in space science, Earth science and space exploration. South Korean and U.S. officials have previously discussed the possibility of American participation on future South Korean lunar missions, and South Korea plans to spend about $160 million over the next three years on a lunar orbiter mission. [Yonhap / Korea Herald]
A member of Congress plans to introduce a wide-ranging space policy bill in April. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) said Friday he will soon have a draft of his American Space Renaissance Act ready for review, and expects to formally roll it out at the Space Symposium in April. The bill would cover a range of issues, including efforts to have the government rely more on satellite services provided by companies. Bridenstine said he doesn’t expect the bill itself to pass, but its sections could be incorporated into other legislation. [SpaceNews]
The Martian got stranded at the Oscars. The movie, about an astronaut’s struggle to survive after being left behind on Mars, received seven nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor, but lost out in every category. Spotlight won Best Picture and The Revenant’s Leonardo DiCaprio beat Matt Damon for Best Actor. [Variety]
The Week Ahead
- Chattanooga, Tenn.: The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop features talks on space settlement, propulsion technologies, and related topics.
- Washington: NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee will meet at NASA Headquarters.
- International Space Station: station crewmembers Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov leave the station in a Soyuz spacecraft, undocking at 8:05 p.m. Eastern and landing in Kazakhstan at 11:27 p.m. Eastern.
- Washington: The House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Air Force’s budget request at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
- Silver Spring, Md.: The Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) meets to discuss the status of current and future Mars missions by NASA and other space agencies.
- Washington: The Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council will meet at NASA Headquarters.
- Washington: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the posture of the Air Force at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.
- Washington: The House Appropriations Committee’s commerce, justice and science subcommittee will hold a hearing on NASA’s Ocean Worlds program at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.