Dmitry Rogozin, left, meets with Roscosmos head Igor Komarov and Russian President Vladimir Putin in April 2015. Credit:

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin says comments about the Russian space industry falling behind the U.S. were taken out of context.

Rogozin told Interfax last week that Russia’s space industry “has fallen behind the Americans ninefold” and that even if Russian firms increased their productivity by 150 percent “we will still never catch up with them.”

Rogozin said later that his comments were limited to labor productivity, and not the overall performance of the Russian space industry: “But this absolutely does not mean that we are behind them [the United States] in every other aspect of space exploration.” [Moscow Times]

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SES says the SES-9 satellite launched earlier this year is ready to enter commercial service. The Boeing-built spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 in March and used chemical and electric propulsion to reach geostationary orbit. SES said the accuracy of the launch and performance of the satellite’s electric propulsion system give it enough fuel to operate well beyond its 15-year life. SES-9 will operate from 108.2 degrees east in GEO, replacing the NSS-11 satellite. [SES]

A former Sea Launch executive has taken a job with International Launch Services. Peter Stier is joining ILS as its new senior director of sales. He previously worked for, among other companies, Sea Launch as its vice president of sales, business development and marketing, as well as Boeing and L-3 Communications. [ILS]

Bayer has agreed to work with Planetary Resources on its Earth observation plans. The companies announced Tuesday a memorandum of understanding whereby Bayer will use images from Planetary Resources’ planned constellation of Earth imaging spacecraft for agricultural applications. Planetary Resources, a company with long-term asteroid mining aspirations, announced a $21 million funding round last week to develop an Earth observation system known as Ceres. [GeekWire]

Russia may get back into the space tourism business in a couple of years. The head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center said there are no plans through 2018 to send tourists to the International Space Station on Soyuz vehicles. All the seats on upcoming Soyuz missions are required for ISS crew rotations, but the development of commercial crew vehicles by Boeing and SpaceX, expected to enter service in 2018, could free up seats on later Soyuz vehicles. [Sputnik]


The U.S. Postal Service has given its stamp of approval to the solar system.The Postal Service released two new sets of space-related stamps Tuesday. One set features images of the eight planets in the solar system, while the other includes images of Pluto and New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft that flew past Pluto last year. The Postal Service took pains to emphasize that it was not taking sides in the debate about Pluto’s planetary status with the separate stamp issue. “But with the happenstance the way it was — with New Horizons arriving at Pluto, it gave us the perfect opportunity to be able to issue Pluto with the rest of the planets,” said Postal Service art director Bill Gicker. [collectSPACE]

SpaceX plans to meet with insurers to discuss its plans to reuse Falcon 9 first stages. A company executive said those meetings in the coming weeks will discuss how the company will certify those stages as being ready for flight. The first launch of a reused Falcon 9 first stage is now planned before the end of the year, and the company said at least a couple of potential customers have expressed interest in being the first to fly on a reused stage. SpaceX is also still considering what price discounts to offer on those launches. [SpaceNews]

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XCOR Aerospace laid off employees to focus its efforts on a rocket engine project. Company executives confirmed Tuesday that XCOR laid off some of its employees the previous Friday, but declined to say how many people lost their jobs. XCOR plans to “fully focus” on the development of a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engine it is working on for United Launch Alliance, effectively putting its Lynx suborbital spaceplane work on hold. XCOR said it was “convinced” that it would be able to complete the Lynx, but offered no scheduled for doing so. [SpaceNews]

Demand for satellite broadband in Australia is strong enough to require capacity from a second satellite. Bill Morrow, CEO of Australian government-backed broadband company NBN, said a second satellite was originally planned to serve as a backup to Sky Muster 1, launched last October. But with Sky Muster 1 working well and demand for satellite broadband services strong, the company plans to use the second satellite to provide additional capacity once launched later this year. NBN has already moved some customers from satellite to terrestrial services to free up capacity on its satellite. [SpaceNews]

An Antares first stage completed a static fire test late Tuesday in advance of a return to flight in July. The first stage, held down on the pad at Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, fired its RD-181 engines for 30 seconds in the test late Tuesday. Analysis of the data from the test is ongoing, but Orbital ATK officials said the test appears to be a success. That hot-fire test is one of the last milestones before the Antares returns to flight, launching a Cygnus mission to the International Space Station. That launch is expected to take place in early July. [SpaceNews]

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...