The agency announced late Friday it was ordering the second “post-certification mission” from SpaceX under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract awarded in 2014.
NASA had already ordered two such missions from Boeing, the other company with such a contract.
Those contracts cover the development of commercial crew vehicles and include at least two, and as many as six, post-certification missions.
NASA has not scheduled those post-certification missions, including determining which company goes first. [CBS]
Eutelsat is confident in its long-term growth prospects despite near-term instability. The company said Friday it is forecasting a decline in revenue of up to 3 percent in its new fiscal year, which ends in June 2017, before a return to growth in 2018. The company had projected that revenue decline in May, unsettling the industry, but officials said it did not reflect a long-term trend. Eutelsat also said Friday it would take several more months to negotiate a sale of its stake in Spanish operator Hispasat and finalize a joint venture with ViaSat for Ka-band broadband services. [SpaceNews]
NASA successfully tested an engine for the Space Launch System Friday after an earlier test was aborted. The Friday test of an RS-25 engine, at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, ran the full 650 seconds and was considered a success. A test earlier in the month of the same engine was aborted less than a third of the way into the test because of issues with the test stand, and not the engine itself. [NASASpaceFlight.com]
Satellite observers have spotted the payload launched on a classified Atlas 5 mission Thursday. Amateur observers said the satellite launched on a National Reconnaissance Office mission designated NROL-61 appears to be in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. That is consistent with the hypothesis that the satellite is the first in a new generation of data relay satellites to support other NRO spacecraft. The NRO has not disclosed details about the payload launched on the NROL-61 mission. [Spaceflight Now]
Japan is converting a sounding rocket into a vehicle designed to launch cubesats. A version of the SS-520 sounding rocket should be ready to launch cubesats as soon as December, pending a safety certification expected to be granted in October. The first payload will be a three-kilogram satellite developed by the University of Tokyo that will go into an elliptical orbit at an altitude of about 200 kilometers. [Nikkei]
India plans to launch a weather satellite late this month. The launch of the Insat-3DR satellite on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 2 is currently scheduled for Aug. 28, the director of one of the Indian space agency ISRO’s research centers said this weekend. That launch will be followed by the September launch of ScatSat, a small satellite with a scatterometer to monitor ocean wind conditions. [IANS]
Intelsat has no concerns about launching two of its spacecraft on the same launch. An Ariane 5 is scheduled to launch the Intelsat 33e and Intelsat 36 satellites on Aug. 24. During the company’s quarterly earnings call last week, Intelsat chief executive Stephen Spengler said he was not worried about putting two of the company’s satellites on the same vehicle, noting the track record of the Ariane 5, which has 72 consecutive successful launches. [Spaceflight Now]
The Japanese space agency JAXA is seeking to line up support for a replacement for its failed Hitomi X-ray astronomy mission. JAXA officials will meet with their NASA counterparts late this week to discuss the possibility of NASA providing a copy of an instrument that was flown on Hitomi. JAXA, though, has yet to win approval from the Japanese government for building a replacement for Hitomi, lost shortly after launch earlier this year when a series of errors caused it to spin uncontrollably. [Nature]
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has passed the halfway point in its first orbit of Jupiter.The spacecraft reached the farthest point in its orbit around Jupiter Sunday afternoon, and is now heading back for its next close approach Aug. 27. The spacecraft, which entered orbit around Jupiter July 4, will make a second 53-day orbit of the planet before an October maneuver puts the spacecraft into its planned 14-day science orbit. [SPACE.com]
Gullies seen in Martian craters, once considered evidence of liquid water, were likely created by something else. Spectroscopic observations of the gullies, seen in crater walls, found no evidence of hydrated minerals or clays that would be expected if the gullies were formed by flowing water. Those gullies may instead be formed by blocks of solid carbon dioxide. The gullies are different from dark streaks, known as recurring slope lineae, that NASA said last year was additional evidence of liquid water. [Los Angeles Times]