SpaceX conducts static-fire test ahead of its next Falcon 9 launch; a small wildfire near pad
SpaceX said the test, which took place midday Sunday on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, was a success, setting the stage for a launch late Thursday of a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Shortly after the test, a small brush fire broke out near the pad, which consumed four acres before being contained later in the day.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire, which posed no threat to the launch pad or the rocket. [Spaceflight Now]
A British company plans a constellation of satellites to provide high-resolution Earth images and video. Earth-i said Tuesday its constellation of satellites will offer images with a resolution of better than a meter per pixel, as well as color video. The company’s first satellite is scheduled for launch later this year, with five more to launch through 2019. The satellite is based on a project called Carbonite by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a British smallsat manufacturer, to develop spacecraft that could be built quickly and inexpensively. [BBC]
Neither companies nor legal experts show much interest in modifying the Outer Space Treaty. At a Senate hearing last week, space lawyers as well as executives of companies working on new space applications said that concerns about regulatory gaps and related issues could be addressed through changes in federal law and regulations, rather than amending the 50-year-old treaty. The chairman of the Senate space subcommittee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said prior to the hearing he was interested in studying potential changes to the treaty, but didn’t indicate specific modifications he was seeking. [SpaceNews]
Companies that provide satellite broadband services for airliners are not worried about potential laptop bans. At a recent panel discussion, Inmarsat and ViaSat officials said that laptop use accounts for only a small fraction of capacity used by people on airliners they serve, well behind phones and tablets. Those companies said they are more worried about cybersecurity issues for their systems. [SpaceNews]
Russia’s next-generation crewed spacecraft is facing a delay. Roscosmos had planned the first launch of its Federatsiya, or Federation, spacecraft on an Angara rocket from the Vostochny cosmodrome in 2021. The state space corporation is now considering shifting that launch to Baikonur, using a new medium-class rocket, Fenix, under development. This would delay the spacecraft’s launch to at least 2022. The shift in spaceport and launch vehicle would allow Roscosmos to defer work on developing infrastructure at Vostochny needed for crewed missions. [TASS]
India’s space agency is preparing for the first launch of its largest rocket. The launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3 rocket is scheduled for as soon as June 5from the country’s spaceport at Sriharikota. The GSLV Mark 3 has about twice the payload capacity of earlier versions of the rocket, and uses a new Indian-developed cryogenic engine for its upper stage. The GSLV Mark 3 will allow India to launch larger communications satellites and could be human-rated in the future should India pursue a human spaceflight program. [PTI]
The new secretary of the Air Force says space will be a top priority for her. Heather Wilson’s first major trip since being confirmed as the civilian head of the Air Force was to Colorado Springs, touring facilities there that support space operations. Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said they would make improving the service’s space capabilities a major priority, citing as one example a requested increase of $1.6 billion in the 2018 budget proposal for space programs. [Colorado Springs Gazette]
Lockheed Martin has won a $46 million contract modification for a missile-warning satellite program. The modification to the company’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) contract, announced Friday, covers the addition of an unspecified subsystem and propulsion modifications to two spacecraft under construction. The Air Force is also seeking a major increase in the budget for SBIRS in 2018 to finish those two spacecraft and launch another. [SpaceNews]
Construction has started in Chile on the world’s largest telescope. A ceremony Friday marked the start of construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope on a mountain in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The telescope, slated for completion in 2024, will have a main mirror 39 meters across, far larger than existing observatories. [Reuters]
A distorted image from a NASA lunar orbiter was likely caused by a micrometeroid impact. An October 2014 image of the lunar surface taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showed wavy distortions that puzzled scientists. After ruling out vibration sources within the spacecraft itself, they concluded that the distortion was caused when a micrometeoroid, about half the size of a pinhead, struck the camera, causing no lasting damage. Another scientist took the image and reconstructed what it the impact would have sounded like: a faint “plonk.” [The Verge]
A young engineer who worked in the commercial space industry has died. Matthew Isakowitz, the son of Aerospace Corp. CEO Steven Isakowitz, passed away last week at the age of 29. He served as associate director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation before joining Planetary Resources and another commercial space startup, Astranis. Future Space Leaders announced that they are participating in a “to-be-announced initiative that will further Matthew’s legacy in the field of human space exploration.” [Obituary / Future Space Leaders]