A Proton carrying the European-Russian ExoMars mission lifted off this morning. The Proton launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 5:31 a.m. Eastern carrying the ExoMars 2016 mission.

Separation of the spacecraft from the Breeze-M upper stage is scheduled for more than ten and a half hours after liftoff.

ExoMars 2016 consists of an orbiter designed to study trace gases, such as methane, in the Martian atmosphere, and a technology demonstration lander. [Reuters]

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Europe and Russia are still considering a possible delay in the second ExoMars mission. Officials with the European Space Agency and Roscosmos met Sunday about the 2018 mission, but did not reach a decision on whether to postpone its 2018 launch to 2020. The second ExoMars mission, which will land a rover on the surface, has been facing tight development schedules. [TASS]

Russia launched a remote sensing satellite Sunday after a one-day delay caused by a last-second scrub. The Soyuz-2.1b lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 2:56 p.m. Eastern Sunday and placed the Resurs P3 satellite into orbit. The launch was scheduled for Saturday, but was aborted in the final seconds before the scheduled liftoff because of an unspecified technical issue. The 5,700-kilogram Resurs P3 will provide multispectral data of the Earth, including images with a resolution of one meter per pixel. [Spaceflight Now]

A Delta 4 will launch the last WGS satellite as the Air Force swaps missions under its block buy contract with United Launch Alliance. The launch of the WGS-10 satellite on a Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,4) is scheduled for 2018 under a contract modification announced last week. That launch had been previously planned for fly a GPS 3 satellite, but the Air Force swapped missions after deciding to compete the launch of the GPS satellite. SpaceX was the only company to submit a proposal for that GPS launch, and the Air Force is expected to award that contract later this month. [SpaceNews]


Scott Kelly will retire from NASA next month after setting a U.S. human spaceflight endurance record. NASA announced Friday that Kelly will retire from the astronaut corps effective April 1, although he will still participate in post-flight medical testing. Kelly returned to Earth early this month after spending 340 days on the ISS, a record for a U.S. astronaut. Kelly did not disclose his post-NASA plans. [CBS]

The Russian cosmonaut who also spent nearly a year on the station has no plans to retire. Mikhail Kornienko said he plans to recover from his time in space as quickly as possible in order to be eligible for another long-duration mission to the station. “If I am offered [a flight], I am ready,” he said. He added that he got along very well with Kelly while on the station, and that the two call each other since returning to Earth. [TASS]

A display of Russian space artifacts is the most successful exhibition in the history of London’s Science Museum. Officials said that the exhibition, which closed on Sunday after a six-month run, outperformed any other short-term exhibit in the museum’s 159-year history. More than 140,000 tickets were sold for the exhibition, which included Soviet-era space hardware like capsules and an engineering model of a lunar lander. Many of the people attending the exhibit, museum officials said, traveled there from Russia. [The Independent]

The Alabama state senate has passed a bill that would start the process of developing a spaceport in the state. The bill, approved Thursday, would establish an Alabama Spaceport Authority, which would seek federal grants to conduct a study on the feasibility of a commercial launch site somewhere in the state. That process, the bill’s sponsor said, would take two to three years. Alabama officials have studied spaceport plans in the past, dating back to the X-33/VentureStar era more than 15 years ago, but those efforts made little progress. [Anniston (Ala.) Star]

The Week Ahead






  • Baikonur, Kazakhstan: A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft, carrying three new ISS crewmembers, at 5:26 p.m. Eastern. The spacecraft will dock with the station about six hours after launch.

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...