Planet-hunting Kepler exits emergency mode
NASA has recovered the Kepler spacecraft from an “emergency mode” that jeopardized its mission. The agency said Monday that spacecraft controllers were able to restore control of the spacecraft Sunday and take it out of the emergency mode the spacecraft went into last week.
The cause of the anomaly isn’t known, but the mission’s manager said it’s unlikely to be linked to prior problems with Kepler’s reaction wheels.
That investigation will be done in parallel with efforts to resume science observations with the spacecraft. [SPACE.com]
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance announced a partnership to launch commercial space stations. The companies plan to work on launching Bigelow’s B330 expandable modules on the largest version of the Atlas 5, with a first launch planned as soon as 2020. The partnership is still in its earliest stages, and does not yet involve launch contracts. Bigelow said it has been in discussions with NASA about installing a B330 module on the ISS, making it available to NASA and also on a “timeshare” basis for commercial users. [SpaceNews]
ULA is now planning a late May launch of the MUOS-5 satellite. The launch, originally planned for early May, has now slipped to no earlier than May 27 in order to investigate an engine anomaly during the previous Atlas 5 launch last month. ULA CEO Tory Bruno said Monday engineers are narrowing down the cause of the anomaly and that he expects to share more information about the investigation in about a week. [Spaceflight Now]
French officials have seized $700 million in payments due to Roscomos and a Russian company. The seizures includes $400 million Eutelsat owed to the Russian Satellite Communications company and $300 million Arianespace owed Roscosmos. The French government took the funds after international arbitrators ruled Russia owed the former shareholders of oil company Yukos $50 billion. Russia is appealing the seizure in French courts. [Moscow Times]
U.S. Strategic Command and the United Arab Emirates will share space situational awareness data. Representatives of Strategic Command and the UAE Space Agency signed the agreement Monday at the Space Symposium. Strategic Command already shares such data with a number of countries and companies. [SpaceNews]
The Falcon 9 first stage that made a successful landing at sea on Friday has returned to port. The “drone ship” landing platform, with the stage standing on top, pulled into Port Canaveral, Florida, late Monday night. SpaceX plans to transport the stage to its Cape Canaveral launch facilities for a series of static test firings to determine if the stage can be reused on another launch. [Florida Today]
Stephen Hawking and a Russian billionaire will announce a new space exploration project today. Hawking and Yuri Milner will hold a press conference in New York to announce a project called “Starshot,” which will be under the aegis of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. No other details about Starshot have been released yet. The foundation, chaired by former NASA Ames director Pete Worden, announced a $100 million project last year to fund SETI efforts. [SPACE.com]
The U.S. Air Force hopes to have a plan by this summer for installing new satellite communications terminals on its aircraft. The Air Force is seeking to put the Family of Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T), which allow communications with AEHF satellites, on bombers and some reconnaissance aircraft. That effort would cost about $2.9 billion for 158 terminals. [SpaceNews]
India wants to accelerate work on an Earth sciences satellite that will be developed with NASA. The chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO said that work on the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) spacecraft is proceeding “at full pace,” but that he hopes the planned 2021 launch of the spacecraft can be moved up. NISAR will use its radar to study complex Earth processes and natural disasters. [Aerospace Daily]
A majority of Russians are confident their country is the world’s leader in space exploration. A poll found that 60 percent of Russians believe Russia is the leading space power, with 17 percent picking the U.S. and 6 percent China. Just three years ago, only 35 percent of Russians thought they were the world’s leaders. The Russian public, though, is split about whether spending on space should be increased or decreased. The poll was linked to the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic human spaceflight today. [Moscow Times]