A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a Glonass navigation satellite Sunday despite an “irregularity” with its upper stage.
The Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 4:45 a.m. Eastern Sunday and placed the Glonass satellite into its planned orbit.
However, Russian officials said an unspecified issue took place with the Fregat upper stage, requiring it to burn longer than planned to inject Glonass into its planed orbit.
They provided no additional details about the problem and whether it would affect upcoming Soyuz launches. [TASS]
XCOR Aerospace has reportedly laid off a significant fraction of its workforce. The layoffs, which took place Friday at the company’s facilities in Mojave, California, and Midland, Texas, appear to have primarily affected those working on Lynx, a suborbital spaceplane. About 25 people were laid off, accounting for up to half of the company’s total workforce. XCOR has not publicly commented on the layoff reports. [Parabolic Arc]
SpaceX launched another communications satellite Friday evening, and landed another Falcon 9 first stage. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 5:39 p.m. Eastern Friday and placed the Thaicom-8 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit about a half-hour later. The rocket’s first stage landed on the company’s “droneship” several hundred kilometers downrange, the third consecutive launch with a successful landing. Thaicom-8, a 3,100-kilogram satellite built by Orbital ATK, will provide Ku-band services from Thaicom’s GEO slot of 78.5 degrees east. [SpaceNews]
An expandable module attached to the International Space Station finally expanded to its full size Saturday. Ground controllers, working with NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, spent more than seven hours Saturday gradually deploying the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), manually adding air to the module until it stretched out to its full size. NASA halted an initial deployment effort two days earlier when BEAM was expanding slower than expected, which engineers attributed to increased friction between folded layers of the module. [SpaceNews]
Satellite operator ABS is up for sale. Permira, the private-equity investor that owns the Bermuda-based company, is seeking to sell its stake, ABS Chief Executive Tom Choi said at a satellite industry event Monday in Singapore. Permira bought ABS for about $242 million in 2010, and last year was looking to sell the company for as much as $1.5 billion to $2 billion, but found limited interest. Since Permira acquired ABS, the company has more than tripled the number of transponders in orbit, with another satellite scheduled to launch in June. [SpaceNews]
China launched a remote sensing satellite late Sunday. The Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:17 p.m. Eastern Sunday and placed the Ziyuan 3-02 remote sensing satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. The satellite is a civilian Earth observation satellite for high-resolution and multispectral imaging. Also launched on the rocket were two small satellites developed by Satellogic, a company based in Argentina that is planning a 25-satellite Earth imaging system. [NASASpaceFlight.com]
U.S. Strategic Command is considering a replacement for the ORS-1 tactical surveillance satellite. ORS-1, developed by the Operationally Responsive Space Office and launched in 2011, provides “mission support” imagery to support tactical operations, but is expected to reach the end of its life in 2017. Strategic Command is considering a number of options to replace ORS-1, including building a replacement, with a decision expected no later than October. [SpaceNews]
China’s space industry has the goal of building 10 percent of the world’s satellites by 2020. Yuan Minhui, director of the Beijing Institute of Space Science and Technology Information, said Monday it hopes to provide foreign customers with communications and remote sensing satellites in an effort to reach that 10-percent goal. Another, unnamed researcher said that the Chinese government will need to address a “vague organizational structure and lack of definitions and responsibilities” in the space sector in order to win more international business. [China Daily]
Scientists said they have detected evidence of the building blocks of life in the atmosphere of a comet. Analysis of data from the Rosetta spacecraft turned up evidence of the amino acid glycine and some of its precursor organic molecules, as well as phosphorous, in the atmosphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Scientists have previously suggested the comets could have delivered organic compounds as well as water to the early Earth, providing the ingredients needed for life to form. “With all the organics, amino acid and phosphorus, we can say that the comet really contains everything to produce life — except energy,” said one scientist. [SPACE.com]