Georgia’s legislature has passed a bill that supports development of a commercial spaceport in the state.
The Georgia Space Flight Act provides liability protection for spaceport operators, similar to laws in several other states.
The Georgia House passed the bill Wednesday on a 151–6 vote, after the state senate previously approved the bill.
Backers of a proposed spaceport in Camden County, on the Atlantic coast, argued the bill was essential to its development. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
A day after one NASA authorization bill was signed into law, a key senator said he’s planning the next one. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday he’s started planning for both a long-term NASA authorization bill and an update to the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. Cruz didn’t identify specific issues he’d like to see in either bill, saying he wants to talk with the administration, industry and other members of Congress about their key issues. Cruz also supported plans by the Trump administration to reestablish the National Space Council, calling it “a very positive development.” [SpaceNews]
Another delay in the launch of a Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station could affect plans for a series of spacewalks there. United Launch Alliance said late Wednesday that the Atlas 5 launch of the Cygnus spacecraft, scheduled for March 27, would be postponed again because of a hydraulics problem with the rocket. No new launch date has been set. The spacecraft’s cargo includes a cable that astronauts plan to install on the station during the last in a series of three spacewalks currently scheduled for April 6. The delay should not alter the schedule for the first two spacewalks, now planned for Friday and March 30. [CBS]
As NASA hails an “historic” budget for its planetary science program, scientists worry about cuts elsewhere. The budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, released last week, calls for $1.9 billion for NASA planetary science, the most ever and the largest year-to-year increase for any agency program in the budget. Scientists at a town hall meeting earlier this week at a planetary science conference, though, raised concerns about plans in the budget to cut funding for Earth science programs and to close NASA’s education office. [SpaceNews]
A House hearing Wednesday examined issues about extending the life of the ISS. At the hearing of the House space subcommittee, some members said that extending the ISS beyond 2024 could deprive funding for programs to support human exploration beyond Earth orbit. Witnesses from industry at the hearing warned that an abrupt, premature end of the ISS could jeopardize the growth of commercial applications in low Earth orbit that could support future commercial space stations. [Space.com]
Space enthusiasts are puzzling over a mysterious piece of equipment spotted on a SpaceX landing ship. A photo of the ship, taken while docked at Port Canaveral, Florida, showed an object on the deck of the ship some speculate is a robot designed to help secure Falcon 9 first stages to the deck after landing. A SpaceX official said that the device is in the testing phase and could be used to support future launches. [Florida Today]
SpaceX, meanwhile, is “super excited” to secure a long-term lease at Port Canaveral. Ricky Lim, senior director of launch operations for SpaceX, said the five-year lease of a building at the port will support the recovery and refurbishment of first stages, which will save the company the time and expense of shipping them to a site in Texas. Lim spoke at a Port Canaveral board meeting shortly before directors unanimously approved the lease deal. [Florida Today]
China is providing grants to fund Egyptian space activities. As part of a broader cooperative agreement between the two countries, China will give Egypt $64 million to aid its EgyptSat remote sensing program, either for the EgyptSat-A spacecraft under development or a future spacecraft. China will also provide $23 million for a satellite integration and testing facility in Egypt. [SpaceWatch Middle East]
A British student found errors in data from a NASA experiment. Miles Soloman was analyzing data from a radiation detector on the ISS as part of a school project when he found a number of cases where the experiment was recording a negative number for the energy of particles hitting the detector. That error had been missed in previous analyses of the data by NASA. What do Soloman’s fellow students think of his discovery? “They obviously think I’m a nerd,” the 17-year-old said. “It’s really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details.” [BBC]