An illustration of NASA's proposed Deep Space Gateway in orbit around the moon. Credit: NASA

Japan has plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2030 — with a little help from the United States. The Japanese space agency JAXA said it envisions human missions to the moon, potentially to study and make use of water ice deposits at the lunar poles. The JAXA plan, though, would involve making use of NASA’s proposed Deep Space Gateway in cislunar space, which would serve as the jumping-off point for expeditions to the lunar surface. [Asahi Shimbun]

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MDA has established a company to commercialize satellite servicing technology.

Space Infrastructure Services LLC will be majority owned by Finance Technology Leverage LLC, an investment company based in Silicon Valley, along with other U.S.-based investors, with MDA holding a minority stake.

It also announced a first customer for that satellite servicing system, with satellite operator SES entering into an agreement for an initial life extension mission with options for future missions.

MDA’s Space Systems Loral (SSL) is developing satellite servicing capabilities in a partnership with DARPA announced earlier this year. [MDA]

An Ariane 5 launched two communications satellites Wednesday in the rocket’s 80th consecutive successful launch. The Ariane 5 lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 5:15 p.m. Eastern and deployed the Hellas-Sat 3/Inmarsat S EAN and GSAT-17 satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits. Hellas-Sat 3/Inmarsat S EAN is a “condosat” with payloads for both Hellas-Sat and Inmarsat, while GSAT-17 is a communications satellite for the Indian space agency ISRO. The launch was the fourth Arianespace mission in eight weeks after a general strike in French Guiana shut down the spaceport there for more than a month. [Spaceflight Now]

House appropriators are offering NASA a budget increase in its version of a spending bill. The House Appropriations Committee released a draft commerce, justice and science (CJS) bill Wednesday that would give NASA nearly $19.9 billion in 2018, $780 million above the administration’s request and more than $200 million above what the agency received in 2017. The bill would offer significant increases for exploration programs and also fund education programs that the proposal sought to shut down. The bill will be marked up by the CJS appropriations subcommittee this afternoon, a few hours after NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot testifies before Senate appropriators. [SpaceNews]

The president of SSL has retired after a 36-year career at the company. John Celli joined the company as an antenna engineer and served in a variety of engineering and management positions before becoming president 11 years ago. Celli will be replaced as group president of SSL by Dario Zamarian, an operating adviser at the private equity firm Blackstone. SSL also announced Paul Estey, a 20-year SSL employee whose current title is executive vice president of engineering and operations, will be executive vice president and chief operating officer. Both appointments are effective July 17. [SpaceNews]

A long-delayed sounding rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility finally took flight this morning. The Terrier-Improved Malemute launched at 4:25 a.m. Eastern this morning on a flight to create artificial clouds in the upper atmosphere to study particle motions. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the clouds as far away as North Carolina and New York City, as expected. The launch was originally planned for nearly a month ago, but delayed by weather and range conditions. []

Ruag Space has opened a new factory in Sweden that doubles its production capacity there. The company’s Linköping factory will build dispensers designed to release 32 OneWeb satellites from Arianespace Soyuz rockets.The new facility, with a 4,000-square-meter high bay, should cut production times by 30 percent over the next five years. Ruag Space also builds sounding rocket guidance systems for NASA and ESA at Linköping. [SpaceNews]

The same concept used by geckos to climb walls could also be used to grapple spacecraft. Researchers said they have successfully demonstrated a technology that uses microscale wedges made of silicone rubber that can attach to objects using van der Waals forces, the same attractive force that allows tiny hairs in the feet of geckos to cling to surfaces. This technology, tested in microgravity, could be used by future robotic arms to grab spacecraft, or space junk, without the need for a grappling device on the target. [Wired]

Planets in other solar systems appear to be arranged in patterns that puzzle astronomers. A new study found that planets orbiting other stars, as discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission, fit a similar pattern of sizes and spacing regardless of the type of star they orbited. That would appear to challenge models of planetary formation where the mass of a star plays a role in how planets condense out of disks surrounding those stars. Scientists said those patterns could be linked to physics within the disks, or instead could be an artifact from the limited data on exoplanets known today. [New Scientist]

A full-sized model of the Soviet shuttle Buran will be going on display at the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. RSC Energia handed over the Buran mockup, used for ground tests, to the Sirius Science and Art Park in Sochi during a ceremony this week. The model, in storage at an Energia facility in Moscow, will be shipped by road and sea to Sochi, where it will go on display next year. []

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...