India’s space agency is planning to launch its next lunar mission in the first quarter of 2018.
The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft would include an orbiter and a lander, with that lander carrying a rover.
The mission will launch on a GSLV Mark 2 rocket.
The mission will come after a private Indian venture, Team Indus, expects to launch its own lunar lander and rover at the end of this year to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize. [Business Standard]
The White House’s detailed fiscal year 2018 budget request, released Tuesday, provided more information on planned cuts to NASA Earth science and education programs. The request, which offers $19.1 billion for NASA, cuts $191 million from Earth science through the cancellation of five spacecraft and instruments. The Radiation Budget Instrument, under development for a future weather satellite, was added to four projects previous slated for cancellation. Flat budgets in future years, including no adjustment for inflation, also affect NASA’s exploration and planetary science programs, such as delaying the Europa Clipper launch to the mid to late 2020s. NASA officials pitched the budget as a “very positive” request despite those constraints, although one key senator said he expected Congress to take action to restore cuts and other underfunded programs. [SpaceNews]
Rocket Lab’s CEO said the company remained patient as weather again delayed the company’s first launch. An attempt late Tuesday was postponed for the second straight day because of triboelectrification concerns linked to high-altitude clouds. CEO Peter Beck said in an interview that the company wouldn’t rush to carry out the launch in marginal conditions, despite the delays, citing the importance of launching in good conditions to maximize the data that they collect. The launch is the first of three test flights of the Electron rocket that Rocket Lab plans before beginning commercial missions. [SpaceNews]
Astronauts successfully replaced a faulty computer outside the International Space Station during a spacewalk Tuesday. Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson spent 2 hours and 46 minutes outside the station during the “contingency” spacewalk, replacing the multiplexer-demultiplexer electronics box on the station’s truss that had failed Saturday. The cause of the failure isn’t known, and the box showed no signs of external damage. Astronauts also installed wireless communications antennas on the Destiny module during the spacewalk, a task postponed from a spacewalk earlier this month. [CBS]
Eutelsat plans to order two more Quantum communications satellites that give the company the flexibility to reconfigure services. The first Quantum satellite, being built by Airbus Defence and Space, is scheduled for launch by SpaceX in 2019. A Eutelsat executive said last week that, based on customer interest in that first satellite, the company was planning at least two more to provide global coverage. The Quantum satellites feature phased array antennas and an advanced beam-forming assembly to reshape the coverage and power levels of its beams to meet changing requirements. [SpaceNews]
Canadian company MDA said its planned acquisition of DigitalGlobe is a hedge against a market downturn. MDA, whose work on communications satellites fell in the first three months of 2017, said that combining with DigitalGlobe will allow the company to diversify its revenue sources, tapping more into the Earth-observation market. That deal, announced in February, is still on schedule to close in the second half of this year. [SpaceNews]
A California woman has been arrested in charges of smuggling sensitive space technology to China.Si Chen, also known as Cathy Chen, was arrested Tuesday after a grand jury indicted her of shipping devices used in space communications to China, falsifying export paperwork to inidcate their value was just $500 versus more than $100,000. Chen faces up to 150 years in prison if found guilty of all charges in the case. [Reuters]
The trial has started in a lawsuit filed by a former SpaceX employee against the company. Jason Blasdell, a former technician, alleges that the company fired him for complaining about the failure of the company to follow its testing and safety protocols for developing its Falcon 9 rockets. Opening statements took place Tuesday, with the trial expected to take two weeks. The judge in the case ruled that jurors will not judge the technical merits of Blasdell’s arguments but instead whether his firing was unjustified. [Bloomberg]
China has established a fund to support research using four space science satellites. The National Natural Science Foundation of China and Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly established the $23.3 million fund for research involving spacecraft studying dark matter, quantum communications and space life sciences. The two organizations are equally funding the effort, which will run through 2020. [Xinhua]