Sen. John McCain is pushing for the Pentagon to rely less on Russian-made launch engines.

Several former defense officials have endorsed an effort by Sen. John McCain to limit use of the RD-180 Fiv.

The officials, who include former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, argued in a letter that there is now “an American industrial base with multiple providers that can produce All-American-made rocket engines.”

McCain has sought to limit the use of Russian-built RD-180 engines in a defense authorization bill, while the House version of the bill would allow greater use of the engine. [Bloomberg]

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Russia launched a satellite to measure the shape of the Earth Saturday. A Rockot booster lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Saturday and placed the Geo-IK 2 satellite, also known as Cosmos 2517, into a polar orbit. The spacecraft, operated by the Russian military, is designed to measure the size and shape of the Earth. The launch had raised concerns in Canada because a Rockot stage was planned to splash down near Canadian waters, but there were no immediate reports of any incidents from that reentry. [Spaceflight Now]

The government of Luxembourg plans to invest more than $200 million in an effort to become the Silicon Valley of space mining. At a press conference Friday, Luxembourg’s prime minister and deputy prime minister announced the government has set aside 200 million euros ($225 million) in initial investment in its initiative.Those funds will go towards research and development projects as well as taking equity stakes in companies that set up operations there.Both Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, the two leading U.S.-based companies involved in space resources, have said they will set up their European operations there. Luxembourg is also planning legislation that would give legal protection to space mining companies. [SpaceNews]

ViaSat has won a contract to provide satellite communications for Air Force One. The Defense Information Systems Agency awarded the contract, worth up to $73 million, to ViaSat to cover Ka- and Ku-band for Air Force One and other aircraft that fly senior government officials. The contract includes an option for an additional year of service to run through the end of May 2018. [SpaceNews]

A company competing in the Google Lunar X Prize unveiled a new lunar lander design. In a presentation at the Berlin Air Show, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic said its Peregrine lander could carry between 35 and 265 kilograms of payload to the lunar surface, depending on the launch vehicle used and amount of propellant on board. Astrobotic also announced partnerships with Airbus Defence and Space, who is providing engineering support, and DHL, who will be its official logistics provider. Astrobotic is one of 16 teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize, although the company emphasized its business plan is not based on winning the competition. [SpaceNews]

Moon Express is closer to winning government approval for a lunar landing mission. The company, also competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, submitted a payload review request to the Federal Aviation Administration in April, hoping that additional voluntary information it provided would be sufficient to overcome regulatory obstacles that would prevent the company from getting a launch license. That review, while not completed, appears to be going well and the FAA is close to providing its approval. Previous efforts to win approvals for “non-traditional” commercial space missions have run into roadblocks because of concerns about the State Department over who would provide the “authorization and continuing supervision” of such missions as required by the Outer Space Treaty. [Wall Street Journal]

The city of Midland, Texas, is confident about its future in the space industry despite layoffs at one firm based there. XCOR Aerospace, which has been gradually setting up operations in the city after signing an economic development deal in 2012, laid off close to half of its workforce in late May, putting plans to develop the Lynx vehicle on hold. Local officials said they remain optimistic about the city’s ability to attract space companies, citing development of an altitude chamber facility there for Orbital Outfitters and discussions with “numerous” unnamed companies interested in moving to the city, whose airport is an FAA-licensed spaceport. [Midland Reporter-Telegram]

NASA is weighing the option of sending the Dawn spacecraft to a third asteroid. Dawn is currently orbiting Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt, after visiting the asteroid Vesta. Dawn’s mission was scheduled to end at Ceres this year, but the spacecraft’s electric propulsion system has more propellant left than expected. That extra propellant, the overall health of the spacecraft, open the possibility of sending Dawn to another asteroid in the main belt. An extended mission proposal is being reviewed, with a decision expected in August or September. [Seeker]

Meteorite hunters are looking for fragments from a brilliant meteor seen over Arizona last week. The meteor, which for an instant turned night into day in Arizona skies early Thursday, was likely created by the breakup of an object one to two meters across. Scientist at Arizona State University, home to the world’s largest meteorite collection, hope to obtain some of those meteorites for analysis. [Arizona Republic]

A former NASA administrator is disclosing details about his artificial intelligence startup. KnuEdge, led by Dan Goldin and formerly known as Intellisis, emerged from “stealth mode” Monday by announcing both hardware and software products for neural computing. Goldin, who was NASA administrator for nearly a decade, said an interest in biology kindled by his time running the agency led him towards what is known KnuPath. “When the time came to leave NASA, I decided the future of technology would be in machine intelligence,” he said in an interview. [IDG News Service]

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...