Rogozin Cracks the Whip over Vostochny + The Week Ahead
Russia’s deputy prime minister wants work on the country’s new launch site to accelerate despite winning a schedule reprieve. Dmitry Rogozin told officials in charge of the Vostochny Cosmodrome that he believes they have “relaxed” after President Vladimir Putin recently shifted the spaceport’s construction deadline from the end of this year to April 2016. Of particular concern to Rogozin was the slow pace of efforts to hook up utilities to spaceport facilities. [TASS]
The Martian is back on top. The movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars returned to the top of the box office over the weekend despite being out for nearly a month and competing with several new films. The Martian took in $15.9 million over the weekend and, since its release, has brought in $384.4 million worldwide. [Hollywood Reporter]
ViaSat is planning to expand its San Diego headquarters. The company has purchased 23 acres of land across the street from its current campus of buildings, and plans to build additional buildings there as needed. ViaSat, which provides satellite communications services, currently employs nearly 2,000 people at its headquarters, and the additional buildings planned would allow its workforce to double. [San Diego Union-Tribune]
The House is scheduled to start voting today on a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Several procedural votes on the bill are expected, with a final vote potentially delayed to Tuesday. The bill moved to the House floor after a majority of members signed a discharge petition, a rarely used tactic to move the bill out of the House Financial Services Committee. The U.S. space industry has made increased use of the bank in recent years to finance commercial satellite and launch deals, and the bank’s lapse in authorization in July has led satellite manufacturers to claim they have lost deals as a result. [Reuters]
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House leaders have scheduled a vote next week to attempt to override President Obama’s veto of a defense authorization bill. The President vetoed the bill last week because of its use of contingency spending to avoid budget caps on defense spending. The veto puts several space-related measures in limbo, including language that would give United Launch Alliance access to several more RD-180 engines, but far fewer than the company said it needs for upcoming launch competitions. [SpaceNews]
NASA is seeking to acquire both the spacecraft bus and electric thrusters for its Asteroid Redirect Mission spacecraft from industry. NASA plans to award several “Phase 1” studies, at $1 million each, in January for companies proposing to provide the bus for the robotic spacecraft that would grapple a boulder off the surface of an asteroid and return it to lunar orbit. A follow-on competition to award a contract for the bus itself would come next summer. NASA is evaluating proposals from a separate competition for the spacecraft’s electric thrusters. The reference target for the spacecraft is asteroid 2008 EV5, and that asteroid is increasingly appearing to be a leading candidate for the mission. [SpaceNews]
The U.S. government is reevaluating policies that make it difficult for companies to launch from India. A representative of the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said last week that his office is reviewing a decade-old policy that discourages U.S. companies from launching from India. That policy was put into place in an effort to negotiate a commercial space launch agreement with India, but that effort collapsed several years ago with no plans to resume it. Growing demand for commercial launches helped trigger the policy review. [SpaceNews]
A mysterious object believed to be a piece of space debris will hit the Earth next month. Astronomers discovered the object, WT1130F, earlier this month in an elliptical orbit that takes it out twice as far from the Earth as the Moon. The object’s small size — one to two meters across — and low density suggest that it may be a rocket stage or other debris from a lunar mission. The object will burn up in the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean on Nov. 13. [Nature News]
A watch that an astronaut took the Moon sold at auction for more than $1 million. David Scott wore the Bulova watch on the final spacewalk of the Apollo 15 mission after his NASA-issued Omega watch broke. An anonymous Florida businessman paid $1.625 million for the watch in an auction that closed last Thursday. [collectSPACE]
The Planetary Society marked its 35th anniversary Saturday night. During the gala event in Pasadena, the society bestowed its Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science to Neil deGrasse Tyson, a society board member and host of the Cosmos TV series. Others participating in the event included NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman and author Andy Weir. The organization also released a music video that featured Tyson and Bill Nye, autotuned. [The Planetary Society / YouTube]
The Week Ahead
- Washington: The Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) meets to discuss current and future missions to Venus and key areas of research about the planet.
- Huntsville, Ala.: The American Astronautical Society’s Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium includes sessions on space exploration and policy, including progress reports on the development of SLS and Orion.
- Irvine, Calif.: The National Academies’ Committee on Biological and Physics Sciences in Space holds its fall 2015 meeting.
- Houston: The First Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars features presentations on a wide range of potential landing sites for future human Mars missions.
- Washington: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will discuss his agency’s Journey to Mars plans at the Center for American Progress at 10 a.m. Eastern.
- International Space Station: Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren will perform a spacewalk starting at 8:15 a.m. Eastern to perform maintenance outside the station.
- Washington: The Earth science subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council’s science committee meets to get an update on NASA Earth science programs and related topics.
- Kauai, Hawaii: Scheduled launch of a Super Strypi rocket from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the ORS-4 mission for the Operationally Responsive Office.
- Washington: The Univ. of Nebraska College of Law hosts its annual Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications conference. Two Thursday afternoon sessions are devoted to commercial space legislation.
- Glasgow, Scotland: The Space Robotics Symposium at the Univ. of Strathclyde discusses technical developments in the field of space robotics, with a special session on Scottish spaceport development as well.
- Santa Clara, Calif.: The 100 Year Starship organization holds its annual symposium, with featured speakers including SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter and Virgin Galactic’s George Whitesides.
- Washington: The National Academies holds a meeting for its “Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats” study, with a focus on orbital debris and spectrum issues.
- Cape Canaveral, Fla.: An Atlas 5 will launch the GPS 2F-11 satellite at 12:17 p.m. Eastern.