The Pentagon has approved plans to move ahead with a troubled GPS ground system.
Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, gave the go-ahead Friday to continue work on OCX, saying that the restructured program is making progress on key milestones.
The OCX program, led by Raytheon, suffered a Nunn-McCurdy breach earlier this year because of its rising costs, triggering the review. [Breaking Defense]
Orbital ATK’s Antares returned to flight Monday night with the successful launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. The rocket lifted off from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 7:45 p.m. Eastern Monday night and placed the Cygnus spacecraft into orbit nine minutes later. The Cygnus, carrying more than 2,400 kilograms of cargo, will arrive at the station Oct. 23, after the launch and docking later this week of a Soyuz spacecraft. Last night’s launch, postponed from Sunday night because of a ground equipment issue, is the first for the Antares since a launch failure nearly two years ago. It was also the first launch of an upgraded version with new RD-181 main engines. [SpaceNews]
Elon Musk doesn’t believe sabotage is a likely cause of last month’s pad explosion, but still worries about it. Musk, speaking at the National Reconnaissance Office last week, said the leading cause of the failure is the formation of solid oxygen in carbon overwrap helium tanks in the rocket’s second stage. Outside experts believe that explanation is in line with the available evidence about the Sept. 1 explosion and the characteristics of such tanks. Musk added, in comments relayed from one attendee, that the accident can be replicated if someone shoots the tank. “We don’t think that is likely this time around, but we are definitely going to have to take precautions against that in the future,” Musk reportedly said. [SpaceNews]
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to visit the Kennedy Space Center Monday. Trump, according to plans still being worked out, will fly into the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC and tour the center, as well as attend an industry roundtable there. Trump may also hold a campaign rally off-site. The region’s economic development commission and Space Florida are coordinating the roundtable meeting, and have invited Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to attend a similar event. [Florida Today]
AsiaSat’s president and CEO is stepping down at the end of the month. William Wade will retire from those positions effective Nov. 1, but will continue to serve as a senior adviser to the company through March 2017. He will be replaced by Andrew Jordan, who previously worked as a marketing manager for AsiaSat in the 1990s and has worked for several other satellite operators. [AsiaSat]
China’s Shenzhou-11 is expected to dock with the Tiangong-2 module today. Docking is slated for approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern this afternoon, less than two days after the launch of Shenzhou-11. The spacecraft, carrying two Chinese astronauts, is scheduled to remain docked to Tiangong-2 for 30 days. [gbtimes]
NASA’s Maven spacecraft has provided new views of the red planet in the ultraviolet. The images, released Monday at the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) conference, show features such as the “nightglow” emission from nitric oxide in the planet’s tenuous atmosphere. The images also provide new details about the formation of clouds in the atmosphere during the day, particularly over the planet’s tallest mountains. [Univ. of Colorado]
A newly discovered distant world could point the way to a hypothetical ninth planet. The object, provisionally known as L91 and announced Monday at the DPS conference, is in a very eccentric orbit in the outer solar system that takes 20,000 years to complete. That eccentric orbit, some scientists argue, could have been shaped by the presence of an as-yet-unseen large planet in the outer solar system, similar to other objects in the Kuiper Belt with very elongated orbits. [Science]