Russia is working to complete the Vostochny Cosmodrome in time for an April launch. Credit:

Preparations for the first launch from Russia’s new spaceport are ramping up.

The upper stage of a Soyuz rocket, and its payload of satellites, will be transported by air this week to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, joining the lower stages of the Soyuz rocket previously shipped there.

The first launch from Vostochny, previously planned for late last year, is now tentatively scheduled for April. [TASS]

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The first Belarusian satellite has a mission of profit, not prestige. Belintersat-1, launched Friday on a Chinese Long March rocket, is funded by the government of Belarus but, unlike some other recent national satellite systems, the satellite is intended to make money. Belintersat, the company marketing the satellite, said it has sold half its capacity to Chinese customers and is seeking to partner with other satellite operators to sell the rest. [SpaceNews]

A majority of Hawaiians support the construction of a controversial telescope. A poll conducted by a local newspaper found that two thirds of registered voters supported construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii. However, a majority of native Hawaiians said they opposed the telescope. Construction of the telescope was set to start last spring but was halted by protests, and in December the state supreme court revoked the observatory’s construction permit, concluding that a state agency failed to provide opponents proper opportunity to comment before awarding the permit. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription)]

Cubesats could pose a threat to military spacecraft, but also offer a solution to that threat. Cubesats, whose small size make them difficult to track and which are relatively easy to build, could approach large military spacecraft and interfere with or even damage them. One potential solution: those large spacecraft could deploy “Guardian” cubseats to patrol the surrounding area, searching for or intercepting any approaching cubesats. [The Space Review]

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Astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in space will be the subject of a PBS special. The network announced Monday it will air a two-part special called “A Year in Space” produced in cooperation with Time magazine. PBS will air the first installment of the special on March 2, around the time Kelly is scheduled to return from the International Space Station. The second part of the show will air in 2017 to cover Kelly’s adaptation to life back on Earth. [PBS]

Planets orbiting black holes could still support life. Astronomers say a “bizarre reversal of the thermodynamics” of our solar system, thanks to general relativity and the cosmic microwave background, could deliver enough energy to the surface of a planet orbiting a black hole to support life. The inspiration of the research was the movie Interstellar, where habitable planets orbited a black hole, although scientists said the movie’s planets are not realistic. [New Scientist]

A celebration this weekend in Houston will mark the opening of a new exhibit featuring a 747 that ferried shuttle orbiters. The dedication of Independence Plaza, at Space Center Houston near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, will include festivities ranging from a speech by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to skydivers. The plaza is home to a 747 previously used to transport shuttle orbiters, with a replica shuttle orbiter dubbed Independence mounted on top of the aircraft. [collectSPACE]


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...