Aerojet Rocketdyne signed a $1.16 billion contract with NASA to restart production of the RS-25 engines that will be used on future launches of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. The company has been building RS-25 engines since the space shuttle program. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne - See more at:

NASA conducted another static-fire test of the RS-25 engines that will be used on the Space Launch System.

The test of the engine, lasting 380 seconds, is part of a broader effort to qualify the engines for use on the core stage of the SLS and to test design tweaks.

Separately, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced Wednesday that it set a new U.S. record for the highest chamber pressure in a liquid oxygen/kerosene main engine during tests of the staged combustion system of the company’s AR1 engine that is currently under development. [ / Aerojet Rocketdyne]

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A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station this morning, one day later than planned. The station’s robotic arm grappled the Dragon spacecraft at 5:44 a.m. Eastern and will berth it to the station’s Harmony module today. The Dragon aborted an initial attempt to reach the station Wednesday because of a computer problem. The spacecraft, launched Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center, carries nearly 2,500 kilograms of cargo, including scientific investigations and sensors to be installed on the station’s exterior. [AP]

Scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of seven terrestrial planets orbiting a nearby star, three in its habitable zone. The planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1, an “ultra-cool” dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. The planets range in mass from 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth. Astronomers first detected two of the planets using ground-based telescopes as the planets transited the star; they found the other planets using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The discovery suggests that Earth-sized planets may be relatively common around stars. [Nature]

Aerojet Rocketdyne is acquiring Coleman Aerospace, a missile manufacturer. Aerojet said it will pay $15 million to purchase Coleman from its current owner, L3 Technologies, with the deal expected to close this month. Coleman makes a range of missiles, primarily as targets for missile defense tests for the Missile Defense Agency, as well as suborbital sounding rockets. [SpaceNews]

Inmarsat and a Singaporean company have developed an in-space data relay system for small satellites. The Inter-satellite Data Relay Service uses receivers built by Singapore’s Addvalue Innovation mounted in small satellites to communicate using Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network. The service, which the companies had been working on in secrecy for more than a year, gives smallsat operators the ability to communicate with their satellites anywhere in the world without a large ground station network. The system is intended for those operating small numbers of smallsats, and not large constellations. [SpaceNews]

NASA’s Europa mission has cleared a major review. The agency said this week that its Europa multiple-flyby mission, also known as Europa Clipper, passed its Key Decision Point B review and will enter Phase B of development this month. The mission, scheduled for launch as soon as 2022, will go into orbit around Jupiter and make dozens of flybys of the icy moon, thought to harbor an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface that makes it potentially habitable. Europa Clipper will be followed by a lander mission still in the earliest phases of development. [SpaceNews]

A troubled military aircraft program overshadowed space at Airbus Defence and Space in 2016. The company said that a $2.3 billion charge it took on the A400M military transport aircraft program brought down the company’s revenues last year. The company’s space business, by contrast, is doing well, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said at a Wednesday press conference, noting that the company took in more space-related orders in 2016 than it filled. [SpaceNews]

NASA announced several public-private partnerships Wednesday to advance launch vehicle and spacecraft programs. The partnerships, in the form of $17 million worth of fixed-price contracts with eight companies, include the development of engines, avionics and other subsystems for launch vehicles. Other partnerships include flight demonstrations of technologies on two small satellite missions. [NASA]

Blue Origin is looking to expand its headquarters near Seattle. The company has filed permits to build a 236,000-square-foot warehouse complex and a 102,900-square-foot office building southwest of its current headquarters and manufacturing facility in Kent, Washington. The permit applications are on hold for an environmental assessment, according to city officials. Blue Origin is currently building a 750,000-square-foot factory for its New Glenn orbital launch vehicle just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. [GeekWire]

The space agencies of China and Italy have signed an agreement to cooperate on human spaceflight. The agreement between the China Manned Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency will include cooperation in research on human spaceflight issues, mutual use of technical facilities and the exchange of personnel. The efforts could aid China’s development of a permanent space station set to be operational by the early 2020s. [gbtimes]

The Apollo 11 command module is taking a road trip. The National Air and Space Museum announced Wednesday that the module will go on a national tour starting later this year and running through late 2019. The module, along with a number of other related artifacts, will appear in museums in Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Seattle before returning to Washington. The module will become the centerpiece of a new museum exhibit, “Destination Moon,” scheduled to open in 2021. [collectSPACE]

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...