Japan’s Hitomi astronomy satellite likely suffered a series of attitude control failures that led parts of the spacecraft to break apart.
The problem started when a faulty inertial reference unit indicated the spacecraft was spinning when it was, in fact, stable. The spacecraft attempted to counteract the perceived spin, setting of a chain of events that caused the spacecraft to spin up, breaking off parts of its solar panels or telescope structure.
Japanese officials have not given up trying to recover Hitomi, but acknowledge the odds of success are poor. [Spaceflight Now]
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, issued an updated status report on the March 27 incident and subsequent investigation and recovery efforts last week:
Hitomi Status Report 2016-04-11 (PDF)
A Senate appropriations bill would give a big boost to NASA’s Space Launch System. The commerce, justice and science appropriations subcommittee marked up a bill Tuesday that would give NASA $19.3 billion in 2017, nearly the same as it received in 2016 but about $275 million more than what the administration requested. The bill provides $2.15 billion for SLS, an increase of nearly $850 million over the request and $150 million more than last year. Orion would also get a modest increase, while science programs took a $200 million cut. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday. [SpaceNews]
OneWeb formally announced their plans to build a satellite manufacturing facility on Florida’s Space Coast. The 11,000-square-meter factory, employing 250 people, will be built in the Exploration Park business park just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center, across the street from where Blue Origin plans to build a launch vehicle plant. When completed, the factory will be able to produce up to 15 small spacecraft a week for OneWeb’s constellation of low Earth orbit broadband spacecraft, and could also support other customers. [Florida Today]
A House committee wants to transfer some weather satellite responsibilities from the U.S. Air Force to the NRO. A draft of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 would fence off half of the money allocated for a next-generation weather satellite program until the Air Force provides a plan on how it will transfer responsibility for some weather missions to the NRO. Members of the House Armed Services Committee, which is drafting the bill, were concerned that the Air Force did not seem willing to support some top-ranking responsibilities for space-based weather data in that next-generation program. [SpaceNews]
The Russian government is bailing out debt-ridden Khrunichev to get the launch vehicle manufacturer on the path to profitability. Roscosmos is providing Khrunichev with loans and subsidies to help it pay debts owed to suppliers and others. That will be followed by a “broad strategic reorganization” of the company through the end of the decade, putting it on track for sustained profitability into the 2020s. Khrunichev is best known as the manufacturer of the Proton and Angara launch vehicles. [SpaceNews]
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Aerojet Rocketdyne has won a $67 million NASA contract to develop an advanced solar electric propulsion system. The three-year contract covers work on an integrated system that could be used on the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission or future missions to Mars. NASA has identified solar electric propulsion as a key enabling technology for its long-term Mars exploration plans. [GeekWire]
Canada’s MDA has hired an American chief executive to help the company expand in the U.S. Howard L. Lance will take over for longtime president and CEO Daniel Friedmann next month. Lance was chairman and CEO of Harris Corp. for eight years, and most recently was working for Blackstone Group’s private equity business. MDA said hiring Lance is part of an effort to grow the company’s business in the U.S. [MDA]
The last in a series of Indian navigation satellites is scheduled for launch next week. The seventh Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System spacecraft will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on April 28. The satellite will complete a constellation of satellites that provide navigation services for India and the surrounding region. [IANS]
The Falcon 9 first stage that landed at sea earlier this month is back in a SpaceX hangar at Cape Canaveral. The stage, returned to Florida by ship last week, was trucked Tuesday up to a SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, a move captured by, among others, a tour group who saw the stage on the road. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted a photo last night of the stage in the hangar, next to the one that landed on land at Cape Canaveral in December. SpaceX plans to put the stage through a series of test firings on the pad, then use it on another launch later this year. [NASASpaceFlight.com / Twitter @elonmusk]
From Swords to Snowplows
“I agree we want to use the ICBMs not to blow something up up there, but to maybe be the vehicle that has the snowplow cleaning up the junk up there.”
– U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), discussing how excess ICBMs could be used to take on the orbital debris problem, during a hearing of the House Science space subcommittee Tuesday on small launch vehicle policy issues.