India launched the GSAT-9 communications satellite this morning.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 2 rocket lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 7:27 a.m.Eastern.

The Indian space agency ISRO declared the launch a success.

GSAT-9 carries 12 Ku-band transponders that India is offering to neighboring South Asian nations. [PTI]

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An Ariane 5 successfully launched two communications satellites Thursday. The Ariane 5 lifted off at 5:50 p.m. Eastern, more than an hour into the launch window after dealing with technical issues. The launch placed into orbit the SDGC communications satellite for Brazil’s Visiona Tecnologia Espacial and the Koreasat-7 satellite for South Korea’s KTSat. The launch was the 78th consecutive successful Ariane 5 mission. [SpaceNews]

The second reuse of a Falcon 9 first stage will launch a Bulgarian communications satellite. BulgariaSat said Friday that its BulgariaSat 1 satellite, built by Space Systems Loral, will launch in mid-June on an Falcon 9 whose first stage launched 10 Iridium Next satellites in January. The mission will be the second time SpaceX has reflown a Falcon 9 first stage, after the launch of the SES 10 satellite in March. [Spaceflight Now]

As Congress passes an omnibus spending bill, NASA is examining the effects it will have on its science programs. The Senate passed the fiscal year 2017 spending bill Thursday, a day after the House, and the president is expected to sign the bill today. That bill provides $19.65 billion for NASA overall, and $5.765 billion for agency science programs, including a record level for planetary science. Astrophysics, by contrast, is facing an effective 20 percent cut in programs whose spending is not specified in the bill. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, said he would seek higher levels than the administration requested for NASA in a 2018 spending bill. [SpaceNews]

The Senate is expected to vote Monday to confirm Heather Wilson to be Secretary of the Air Force after a hold was lifted. The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced her nomination to the full Senate last month, but an unnamed senator placed a hold on the nomination, reportedly seeking information on a base in that senator’s state. The senator removed the hold Wednesday, and the Senate is scheduled to vote on her nomination Monday. [DOD Buzz / Senate Democrats]

Space executives have the right stuff to become government leaders in China. Four aerospace engineers have become provincial governors in the last four years, including former heads of the country’s space program and managers of state-owned aerospace companies. Those engineers have developed a “cocktail of traits” that appeal to the leadership style of Xi Jinping, including willingness to provide accurate data. “We don’t cook the books. The satellites and rockets won’t work if we do,” said one engineer. [South China Morning Post]

Construction has started on a new engine development center in the United Kingdom. The new facility at Westcott will be used for tests of the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), being developed by British company Reaction Engines Ltd. with financial support from ESA and the U.K. Space Agency. The facility should be ready to support tests of the core of the SABRE engine within three years. [ESA]

NASA is working to increase the number of women involved in planetary science missions. Over the last 15 years women have made up just 15 percent of planetary science mission teams, despite the fact that a quarter of planetary scientists are women. NASA has no plans to implement quotas, but in its latest call for proposals for the New Frontiers program the agency included language encouraging diversity in mission teams, and “fully expects that such values will be reflected in the composition of all proposal teams.” [Science]

Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have won a NASA award to start development a small lunar rover. The Small Business Innovation Research award covers initial development of CubeRover, a rover weighing just two kilograms. That team has developed similar designs for larger rovers, weighing from 4 to 10 kilograms. William “Red” Whittaker, the CMU professor who is also chairman of Astrobotic, said such rovers could be used as scouts to travel on terrain that is considered too risky for larger, more expensive rovers. [Pittsburgh TribLIVE]

Jeff Bezos, who said last month he sells a billion dollars in stock a year to fund Blue Origin, just sold nearly a billion dollars in stock. Bezos sold one million shares in this week at prices ranging from $930 to $950 per share. He did not disclose the reason for the sale, but said in April that he sells a billion dollars a year in stock to fund Blue Origin’s activities. Even with the sale, Bezos still owns about 17 percent of [Bloomberg]

The Canadarm robotic arm will be on a new Canadian stamp. The robotic arm, developed for the space shuttle, is featured on the latest in a series of stamps issued by Canada Post to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary. The arm has been been included on two previous Canadian stamps, and the Canadarm2 system on the International Space Station is on the back of the Canadian five dollar bill. [collectSPACE]

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...