Dragon after splashdown
A SpaceX Dragon capsule recovered after splashdown at the end of the CRS-5 mission in 2015. SpaceX plans to start reflying Dragon capsules in 2017. Credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth from the International Space Station Sunday.

The Dragon, flying the CRS-10 cargo mission, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Long Beach, California, at 10:46 a.m. Eastern, several hours after departing the ISS.

The Dragon, which launched a month earlier, brought back more than 1,700 kilograms of cargo from the station. [CBS]

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A Delta 4 successfully launched an Air Force communications satellite Saturday night. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,4) rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:18 p.m. Eastern, after about a half-hour delay because of a problem with a swing arm on the gantry. The rocket placed the ninth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. Several allied countries funded the development of WGS-9 in exchange for gaining access to the entire WGS system. [SpaceNews]

SpaceX is studying landing sites on Mars for its Red Dragon and later human missions. In a talk at a conference Saturday, a SpaceX official said the company had been working with scientists at JPL and elsewhere to identify landing sites, particularly those located in the vicinity of subsurface water ice deposits. Some landing sites that initially looked promising have turned out to be too rocky to permit safe landings after obtaining high-resolution images of them. The first Red Dragon uncrewed Mars mission, originally planned for launch as soon as next year, is now expected to take place in 2020. [SpaceNews]

The Air Force is looking for ideas to improve the GPS system. The open-source project, called a “Plug Fest,” is designed to build applications that can easily be plugged into an open GPS architecture to improve the system or enhance its resiliency, according to Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the military deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. That is part of a broader effort to accelerate and “normalize” space acquisition. [SpaceNews]

The satellite that will be flying on SpaceX’s next mission is being prepared for launch. The SES-10 satellite was fueled late last week and was scheduled to be encapsulated inside its payload fairing over the weekend. The satellite is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center as soon as March 27, although no official launch date has been announced. The launch will be the first mission to use a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage, in this case one first launched on a Dragon cargo mission to the ISS last April. [Spaceflight Now]

Commercial remote sensing companies say that the regulatory environment has not caught up to changes in the industry. The regulations, which date back to the 1990s, have not been changed to reflect changing capabilities, including companies developing large constellations of satellites or new sensor technologies. Companies are seeking a more “permissive environment” similar to the regulation of information technologies. [SpaceNews]

The X-37B spaceplane could break a record this weekend. If the secretive Air Force vehicle remains in orbit through Saturday, it will break the record for the longest flight of the vehicle, 674 days. The Air Force has not disclosed when the spaceplane might return to Earth. Rumors earlier this year of an impending landing of the X-37B at the Kennedy Space Center turned out to be a false alarm. [Space.com]

A resolution calling for a study of a proposed Georgia spaceport could send mixed messages, advocates of the launch site warn. The resolution, introduced recently in the Georgia legislature, calls for “careful study and consideration” of the proposed Camden County spaceport. State Rep. Jason Spencer, who sponsored legislation providing indemnification for spaceport users, said the resolution could send “conflicting messages” to the industry about the state’s support for the spaceport. Many of the concerns raised the resolution, he said, will be addressed in the environmental assessment that is part of the proposed spaceport’s FAA license application. [Brunswick (Ga.) News]

NASA has selected four teams to study topics related to exploration of the moon, Mars and other solar system destinations. The four teams join the nine that are part of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, which examine scientific questions to advance human exploration of the solar system. The new teams will receive a combined $3-5 million a year for five years to support their research. [NASA Ames]

The Turkish parliament is considering legislation to create a national space agency. The draft bill, debated earlier this month by a parliament committee, would establish a national space agency supervised by the prime minister’s office. That agency, supporters of the bill believe, can help foster the nation’s space industry and eventually develop a satellite launch capability. [SpaceNews]

A former Roscosmos manager facing embezzlement charges died in a Moscow jail under suspicious circumstances. Vladimir Yevdokimov was found dead in his cell Saturday with knife wounds to his heart and neck. Russian investigators said Yevdokimov was most likely murdered, but that they had no suspects and could also not rule out suicide. Yevdokimov was a former quality and reliability manager at Roscosmos who was arrested last December on charges of embezzling more than $3 million from aircraft manufacturer MIG. [TASS]

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...