Artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing

NASA has placed a second order for a commercial crew mission on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner.

NASA announced Friday it was ordering the mission under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract with Boeing after ordering the first such mission in May.

NASA has ordered one Crew Dragon mission from SpaceX under a similar contract. NASA did not say when the newly ordered mission would fly, and emphasized that a decision on which company flies the first mission has yet to be made. [NASA]

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SpaceX has rescheduled the launch, and attempted landing, of a Falcon 9 rocket for tonight. The company had planned to launch 11 Orbcomm satellites on an upgraded Falcon 9 Sunday evening, but postponed the launch earlier in the day. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that simulations showed a 10 percent better chance of landing the rocket’s first stage at the company’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral if the launch took place Monday. Orbcomm, though, said the delay allowed for both more analysis and more time to chill the supercooled liquid oxygen in the vehicle. Launch is now scheduled for a 60-second window at 8:33 p.m. Eastern. [SpaceNews]

Two NASA astronauts will make an unscheduled spacewalk today to perform a repair outside the International Space Station. The station’s management team approved plans Sunday for Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra to make the spacewalk today to fix the station’s Mobile Transporter, a cart on the station’s truss that got stuck last week about 10 centimeters from a worksite. The two plan to move the transporter to that worksite and lock it down so it doesn’t pose a hazard when a Progress spacecraft docks with the station Wednesday. The spacewalk, scheduled to last three to three and a half hours, will start at approximately 8:10 a.m. Eastern. [NASA]

A Progress spacecraft is on its way to the station after a launch early today. A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress MS-1 cargo spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:44 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft, carrying 2.5 tons of supplies for the station, is scheduled to dock with the Pirs module of the ISS at 5:31 a.m. Eastern Wednesday. It replaces another Progress cargo spacecraft that left the station early Saturday. []

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The European Union appears ready to finally start discussions with other nations about accessing encrypted government-only signals from the Galileo navigation satellites. A recent statement from the European Council suggested the EU should start discussions soon with Norway and the U.S., who have each requested access to that government-only signal, similar to military-only signals on GPS satellites. Formal discussions between the EU and the U.S. and Norway could begin by the middle of 2016. [SpaceNews]

An international space law organization believes a new U.S. commercial space law does not conflict with international treaties. In a position paper released Sunday, the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) reviewed a section of the new U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act that allows U.S. citizens rights to resources extracted from asteroids or other celestial bodies. The IISL concluded that the law does not run afoul of the Outer Space Treaty. “Whether and to what extent this interpretation is shared by other States remains to be seen,” the IISL cautions. [IISL]

XCOR Aerospace is transferring half of the hangar space it is leasing at the Midland, Texas, airport back to a local development agency. The Midland Development Corp. will hand over one of two hangars at the airport that XCOR was leasing there. Local officials said that XCOR didn’t need both hangars for its work developing the Lynx vehicle, and other aerospace companies were looking for hangar space at the airport. The agency will reimburse XCOR nearly $800,000 for renovations it did complete to that hangar. [Midland Reporter-Telegram]

Nearly half a century after the first “Earthrise” image, NASA has released the best such image yet. The composite image, taken in October, shows the Earth rising above the crater Compton on the edge of the moon’s far side. The image required special processing, using one camera for the high-resolution details and another for the color information. [NASA GSFC]


The Week Ahead


  • International Space Station: NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra will perform a spacewalk to move the station’s Mobile Transporter into position starting at approximately 8:10 a.m. Eastern.
  • Cape Canaveral, Fla.: Rescheduled launch of SpaceX’s upgraded Falcon 9 carrying 11 Orbcomm communications satellites, at 8:33 p.m. Eastern. SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket’s first stage back at Cape Canaveral.


  • International Space Station: The Progress MS-1 spacecraft will dock with the station’s Pirs module at 5:31 a.m. Eastern.
  • Baikonur, Kazakhstan: A Proton rocket is scheduled to launch the Express AMU1 communications satellite at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

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...