The first GSLV Mark 3 rocket sits on a pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre prior to launch.
The first GSLV Mark 3 rocket sits on a pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre prior to launch. Credit: ISRO

India launched the first GSLV Mark 3 rocket this morning.

The rocket lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on schedule at 7:59 a.m. Eastern and initial reports indicated that the rocket was performing as planned though satellite separation.

The launch is the first for this new, and more powerful, variant of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, roughly doubling its payload performance.

The rocket’s payload was the GSAT-19 communications satellite. [The Hindu]

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A Falcon 9 successfully launched a reused Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station Saturday. The Falcon 9 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 5:07 p.m. Eastern and placed the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft, which first flew on a mission to the ISS in 2014, is carrying 2,700 kilograms of scientific experiments and other cargo for the station, and will be berthed there later today. The Falcon 9’s first stage made a successful landing at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. [SpaceNews]

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft departed from the station Sunday morning. The Cygnus spacecraft, named S.S. John Glenn, was released by the station’s robotic arm at 9:10 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft, launched to the station in April on the OA-7 cargo mission, was originally scheduled to remain there until July. However, NASA managers said the cargo ship was already filled with cargo to be disposed from the station, and they took advantage of an opening in the schedule caused by Dragon’s two-day launch delay to move up the Cygnus’ departure. The spacecraft will remain in orbit for a week, releasing cubesats and performing a fire experiment, before reentering June 11. [Spaceflight Now]

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying two ISS crewmembers landed safely in Kazakhstan Friday. The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft landed at 10:10 a.m. Eastern, about three and a half hours after undocking from the ISS. The spacecraft returned to Earth Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet after 196 days in orbit. [Reuters]

A conference this week will examine an “explosion” of geospatial intelligence capabilities. The GEOINT 2017 Symposium, underway in San Antonio, Texas, includes key government and industry officials discussing how to best use the growing data sets available from various platforms. One theme will be the increasing use of machine learning and other artificial intelligence techniques to automate the extraction of information from large data sets. [SpaceNews]

Vice President Mike Pence will attend a ceremony this week where NASA announces its new astronaut class. NASA announced late Friday that Pence will attend the event at the Johnson Space Center Wednesday afternoon were the agency will announce the newest members of the astronaut corps. Pence is expected to play a key role in space policy in the administration, which has yet to announce its pick for NASA administrator or re-establish the National Space Council, a key plank of its space policy platform in last fall’s election. []

Eutelsat is interested in being an early customer of the next-generation Ariane 6. The satellite operator announced after last week’s launch of its latest satellite on an Ariane 5 that it will launch three more satellites on Ariane 5 vehicles in 2019. The company said the new order “puts us in the right conditions for our upcoming discussions on Ariane 6.” [SpaceNews]

Sky Perfect JSAT made an investment in LeoSat because it will complement, not compete with, its geostationary satellites. The company made an undisclosed investment in LeoSat after it concluded that LeoSat offered less risk of cannibalizing GEO satellite communications. LeoSat plans to develop a constellation of up to 108 satellites that will provide low-latency enterprise communications. [SpaceNews]

A worker helping build Blue Origin’s Florida factory was injured in a fall last month. The electrician, an employee of a construction subcontractor and not Blue Origin, fell from a height of more than six meters and was airlifted to an Orlando hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. The accident, just before the Memorial Day weekend, briefly halted work on the factory, but activities resumed after the long weekend except where the accident took place. Blue Origin is building the factory to manufacture its New Glenn launch vehicle. [Florida Today]

United Launch Alliance has laid off an undisclosed number of employees from its Alabama factory. One person laid off from the Decatur factory, which builds Atlas and Delta rockets, said 68 people lost their jobs, but neither ULA nor a union would disclose a specific number. ULA had previously announced plans for a “workforce reshaping” in 2017, with the majority of the employment reductions done through voluntary departures rather than layoffs. [WHNT-TV Huntsville, Ala.]

Facilities to support Soyuz-2 launches from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome should be complete by 2018. The head of the Center for Ground-based Space Infrastructure Operation said his organization has taken over work on infrastructure at the spaceport that previously had been the responsibility for the Federal Special Construction Agency, prioritizing its work on the facilities needed for launches of the Soyuz-2. A launch pad and associated infrastructure for the Angara rocket will be completed by 2021. [TASS]

A Turkish company said it plans to develop its own launch vehicle. Roketsan said last month it is pursuing development of the Satellite Launch System, a rocket designed to place payloads of unspecified mass into low Earth orbits. The rocket would be “independently funded” but offered to the Turkish government for use launching its own satellites. The company did not disclose a schedule for the rocket’s development. [Spacewatch Middle East]

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...