NASA approves Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser plan

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Sierra Nevada Corp. has completed the second milestone in its commercial cargo contract with NASA.

The company said Monday NASA had approved the company’s plan for getting its Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station.

The company won one of three Commercial Resupply Services 2 contracts from NASA in January to deliver cargo to and from the station, starting in late 2019. [Sierra Nevada Corp.]


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A power failure caused the loss of a U.S. Air Force weather satellite earlier this year. In a statement Monday, the Air Force said the DMSP-F19 satellite suffered a power failure in its command and control system, preventing commands sent from the ground from reaching the spacecraft’s main computer system. The Air Force said the failure cannot be repaired or otherwise worked around. The spacecraft stopped responding to commands in February, although it does continue to return some weather data. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the satellite, said it was responsible for the subsystem that failed. [SpaceNews]

NASA says the first launch of its Space Launch System is on schedule for the fall of 2018 despite issues with one element of the Orion spacecraft. Agency officials told a meeting a NASA Advisory Council committee Monday that they are adjusting the schedule for work leading up to the Exploration Mission 1 launch to account for a delay of at least three months in the delivery of Orion’s service module, being built in Europe. Those changes could include doing a wet dress rehearsal of the SLS on the pad without Orion attached. That mission is scheduled for launch between September and November of 2018. [SpaceNews]

The Air Force’s next space surveillance satellite remain on track for launch in 2021 despite the service seeking less money for the program. The Air Force asked to reprogram $11.5 million of the $27 million the Space Based Space Surveillance follow-on program received in 2016, saying the decreased funding matches an adjusted schedule for the program. That follow-on system, which could include up to three satellites or hosted payloads on commercial satellites, is still scheduled for launch in 2021, replacing the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite launched in 2010. [SpaceNews]

Facebook has successfully tested a drone that could be an alternative to satellites for providing Internet access. Facebook said the 96-minute test flight of its solar-powered Aquila drone, which took place in Yuma, Arizona, was a success despite an unspecified “structural failure” shortly before landing. Facebook is investigating the use of high-altitude drones to provide Internet access in underserved regions, while also purchasing satellite capacity to provide connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa. [SpaceNews]

Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed tests of thrusters that will be used on Boeing’s commercial crew vehicle. The tests of the three reaction control system thrusters, carried out at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, confirmed the performance of the small thrusters intended for use on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Each thruster was tested for 4,000 pulses, with a total burn time of 1,600 seconds. [Aerojet Rocketdyne]

Orbital ATK said Monday it has signed an agreement with a European company to develop and market a green propellant. Orbital ATK said its agreement with Swedish company ECAPS covers the development, demonstration and marketing of LMP-103S, a propellant that could replace hydrazine in engines. LMP-103S offers higher performance compared to hydrazine without the hazards of dealing with that toxic propellant. [Orbital ATK]

An international tribunal has ruled against India’s space agency in a dispute with an Indian company. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, acted unfairly in annuling a contract for satellite capacity it had with Devas Multimedia. The court also ruled India failed to provide fair and equitable treatment to Devas’ foreign investors. The ruling is the second victory for Devas on the international stage, after the International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the company last year and said it was owed more than $650 million. [PTI]