Orbital ATK postpones Cygnus launch until September
The company announced Wednesday that the launch, previously scheduled for Aug. 22, had been pushed back to the latter half of September due to what company executives said were “a variety of interrelated factors” involving both its Antares launch vehicle and ISS activities.
The company, in a conference call to discuss its quarterly financial results, also said that the commercial communications satellite market is weaker than expected and would thus contribute less revenue.
Orbital ATK’s stock dropped sharply Wednesday when the company said it would restate earnings because of accounting errors on a U.S. Army munitions contract. [SpaceNews / Bloomberg]
Delays in Cygnus and Japanese cargo flights to the ISS will allow NASA to reschedule a spacewalk. Astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins had already planned to perform a spacewalk Aug. 19 to attach a new docking system to the station. The Cygnus and HTV delays will now allow NASA to carry out a second spacewalk by Williams and Rubins on Sept. 1 to retract a radiator on the station’s exterior. The timing of another spacewalk planned for October to replace batteries will depend on when the HTV spacecraft, carrying those batteries, is launched. [CBS]
Russia is considering scaling back its crew on the ISS. Sergei Krikalev, a former cosmonaut who is now director of human spaceflight for Roscosmos, told the newspaper Izvestia that Russia was proposing reducing its portion of the ISS crew from three people to two. That reduction, he said, would save money for Roscosmos and “boost the efficiency of the program,” he said. The report didn’t indicate when Russia would move ahead with that proposal. [TASS]
EchoStar has $3 billion in cash that it plans to invest in one or more global satellite projects. Company executives said this week that those cash reserves, boosted by the sale of $1.5 billion in bonds, would be used to support unnamed satellite projects and for “pursuing other strategic opportunities.” EchoStar’s Hughes division provides a consumer broadband satellite service that is near capacity in some high-demand regions. [SpaceNews]
NASA is adding companies to its effort to develop concepts for deep space habitats. The company announced contracts this week valued at $65 million to six companies for the next phase of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. The four companies that received initial NextSTEP awards in 2015 won contracts in the new phase, and NASA also issued awards to teams led by NanoRacks and Sierra Nevada Corp. The NextSTEP-2 awards include detailed design studies and construction of prototypes for ground tests. [SpaceNews]
Weather looks good for a weekend Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral. Forecasts call for a 90 percent chance of acceptable weather for the launch at 1:26 a.m. Eastern. The Falcon 9 will launch the JCSAT-16 communications satellite, built by Space Systems Loral for Sky Perfect JSAT. [Florida Today]
Panasonic Avionics and Yahsat signed an agreement to study a future satellite constellation. The companies said the Aug. 10 memorandum of understanding covers an examination of a mobile satellite broadband constellation that could be developed in three to five years to serve the Middle East. Panasonic Avionics has become a major customer of several satellite operators as it develops a global system to provide satellite communications for aviation and maritime customers. [SpaceNews]
The Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight, and could be especially brilliant. The peak of the annual meteor shower will be the overnight hours Thursday into Friday, with some astronomers forecasting a peak meteor rate of 200 per hour, double the usual peak. The high peak this year is caused by Jupiter’s gravity tugging on the cometary debris trail that causes the meteor shower, pulling more material towards Earth. [GeekWire]
A 3-D printer for food originally funded by NASA is now finding more down to Earth applications. A 2013 NASA grant to the Systems and Materials Research Corporation supported development of the printer that could produce food, such as pizza, that the company envisioned could help future Mars missions. The company did not win a follow-on grant from NASA to continue that work, and the team working on the printer has now started up a new company, BeeHex, to adapt the printer to produce on-demand pizzas in custom shapes for sale at amusement parks and sporting events. BeeHex hopes that NASA will one day come back to them when the agency decides that it, in fact, does need a 3-D pizza printer for its Mars expeditions. [Motherboard]