Japan is planning to expand its fleet of reconnaissance satellites.

An update released by the Japanese government Wednesday to its plans for implementing its space policy call for increasing the number of reconnaissance satellites from four to ten over several years.

The policy updates also include research on infrared detectors that could be used for future missile warning satellites. [Nikkei Asian Review]

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Intelsat has agreed to launch five satellites on Proton rockets over the next several years. The agreement, announced by Proton manufacturer Khrunichev Wednesday, covers launches of five unnamed satellites through 2023. The long-term agreement, Khrunichev officials said, is designed to give Intelsat flexibility in its launch schedule. [TASS]

Members of California’s Congressional delegation want the Pentagon to review recent actions by United Launch Alliance. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, 14 members raised concerns about ULA’s plans to phase out most versions of the Delta 4 rocket, and to also replace Aerojet Rocketdyne as the supplier of solid rocket boosters for the Atlas 5 and Vulcan rockets. Retiring all but the heavy version of the Delta 4, they argued, “creates a potential and avoidable gap in space launch capability.” ULA and Aerojet declined to comment on the letter. [SpaceNews]

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The Senate passed a compromise version of a commercial space bill Tuesday. The bill, which reconciles separate House and Senate bills passed earlier this year, extends launch indemnification and restrictions on commercial spaceflight safety regulations until the mid-2020s. The bill also includes language that grants companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids or other solar system bodies. The House is expected to take up the bill when it returns from break next week. [SpaceNews]

An Ariane 5 successfully launched two communication satellites Tuesday. The rocket lifted off on schedule at 4:34 p.m. Eastern and placed into orbit the Arabsat-6B and GSAT-15 satellites for Arabsat and the Indian space agency ISRO, respectively. The launch was the sixth and final Ariane 5 mission of the year. [SpaceNews]

ViaSat is planning a constellation of three “super-high-throughput” satellites. The ViaSat-3 system would include three geostationary orbit satellites operating in the Ka-band, providing much higher bandwidth than the company’s existing satellites. The company may award the contract for the first ViaSat-3 satellite before the launch late next year of its ViaSat-2 satellite, although there may be a four-year lag between contract award and launch. [SpaceNews]

The top scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is telling planetary scientists to start planning their proposals to use the observatory. JWST program scientist John Mather said at the Division for Planetary Sciences conference Monday that the first round of proposals for observing time on the space telescope are due in two years. JWST is scheduled for launch in late 2018. [SpaceNews]


NASA received a $50,000 fine from the EPA for environmental violations at Wallops. The fine is for several “seemingly minor violations” of environmental regulations, including a lack of labeling on containers containing hazardous materials and missing paperwork regarding the sulfur content of fuel oil at the site. The EPA found the violations during a July 2013 inspection of the center, and NASA said most of the problems were fixed the same day. [Baltimore Sun]

Scientists have discovered the most distant object in our solar system. The object, provisionally known as V774104, is 103 times farther from the the sun than the Earth, and three times the distance of Pluto. The object, estimated to be between 500 and 1000 kilometers across, could be evidence of an even more distant planet. [Science]

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...