Intelsat OneWeb Graphic
Intelsat, following a conditional $1.7 billion investment from Japanese conglomerate Softbank, has reached a merger agreement to combine with OneWeb. Credit: Intelsat

Intelsat is extending a deadline for a debt exchange in order to keep alive a planned merger with OneWeb.

Sources said Thursday that the company planned to extend the deadline for bondholders to exchange current bonds with new ones until mid-May.

The debt exchange was due to expire late Thursday, but Intelsat confirmed early Friday that it has extended the deadline to May 10.

The company required at least 85 percent of current bondholders to participate in the exchange, which is tied to the company’s planned merger with OneWeb, but some observers speculate existing bondholders may be holding out for a better deal. [Reuters / Intelsat]

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Arianespace announced a launch contract Thursday with an Intelsat-Sky Perfect JSAT joint venture. Intelsat said it will launch the Horizons 3e satellite for Horizons, the joint venture of Intelsat and Sky Perfect JSAT, on an Ariane 5 in late 2018. The Boeing-built 6,500-kilogram satellite will provide high-throughput communications as part of Intelsat’s EpicNG network. [Arianespace]

A Soyuz carrying two new International Space Station crew members arrived at the station Thursday morning. The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft docked with the station at 9:18 a.m. Eastern, six hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz brought to the station NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, bringing the station’s crew up to five. [AP]

President Trump signed into law this week a weather bill that formally authorizes commercial satellite weather data efforts. The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act instructs NOAA to proceed with pilot programs to purchase data from commercial satellites to determine if such data can support weather forecasting. NOAA already started on that effort last year using money in a fiscal year 2016 spending bill, awarding pilot contracts to two companies to provide GPS radio occultation data. The act also directs NOAA to carry out a study of future weather satellite needs. [SpaceNews]

The Senate will hold a hearing next week on “expanding American free enterprise in space.” The hearing next Wednesday, by the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, will include as witnesses the heads of Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Made In Space and Virgin Galactic. The hearing is intended in part to examine “potential regulatory barriers” that could be addressed in future bills. [Senate Commerce Committee]

India is starting the planning for the country’s first mission to Venus. The Indian space agency ISRO has issued an announcement of opportunity for a proposed Venus orbiter mission, seeking proposals for studies to carry out on the mission. An ISRO official cautioned that the orbiter mission still needs formal approval and may not launch before 2020. [The Hindu]

In an asteroid impact, worry about winds and shock waves, not the impact itself. A new study modeling the various effects created by an asteroid impact found that most deaths are created by the wind and shock waves from the impact, followed by the heat of a blast. Impacts that take place on land are about 10 times deadlier than those at sea, despite the latter’s ability to generate tsunamis. []

The “Time 100” list of the most influential people honors both a trio of exoplanet hunters and a space entrepreneur. The list, released by the magazine Thursday, included Natalie Batalha, Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Michaël Gillon for their work discovering exoplanets, including some potentially habitable worlds around other stars. It also recognized Jeff Bezos in an essay penned by Buzz Aldrin, who said Bezos’ “zeal for helping humanity return to the moon, settle Mars and reach destinations beyond that is the most thrilling.” [Time]

SpaceX might be the next stop for a tunneling machine in Los Angeles. The machine, named Harriet, has been working for the last year on tunnels for a new section of the city’s light rail system. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has shown an interest in tunneling technology in recent months, and SpaceX submitted plans to city officials in Hawthorne earlier this month to build a pedestrian tunnel under a busy street linking the company’s headquarters with a parking garage. [Daily Breeze]

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...