SpaceX plans to make another Falcon 9 launch attempt tonight. The company said it plans to launch the SES-9 satellite during a 90-minute window that opens at 6:35 p.m. Eastern, slightly earlier than previous attempts in order to take advantage of a better upper-level wind profile.
This will be the fourth launch attempt for this mission, after three previous attempts were scrubbed for issues linked to the vehicle’s use of supercooled liquid oxygen propellant.
A hold in the previous launch attempt Sunday night, which created a delay that caused the liquid oxygen to warm and eventually scrub the launch, was blamed on a tugboat that strayed into restricted waters. [Florida Today]
The U.S. Air Force awarded contracts Monday to Aerojet Rocketdyne and United Launch Alliance to help end dependence on the RD-180. The contract to Aerojet, valued at up to $536 million, covers work on the company’s AR1 engine it is developing as a potential replacement for the RD-180. The ULA contract, worth up to $202 million, includes work on a prototype of its Vulcan launch vehicle, powered by a Blue Origin BE-4 engine, and its next-generation Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage upper stage. The Air Force previously awarded rocket propulsion contracts to Orbital ATK and SpaceX. [SpaceNews]
Orbital ATK reported improved revenue and income in 2015. In a statement late Monday, the company said it recorded revenues of $4.52 billion for 2015, an increase of nearly 2 percent over 2014 after making adjustments for the merger of Orbital Sciences and ATK that was completed last year. The company reported $299 million in adjusted net income for the year, nearly 20 percent higher than 2014. Orbital ATK said it is projecting revenues of $4.575 to 4.65 billion for 2016. [Orbital ATK]
Astronaut Scott Kelly is preparing to return home after nearly a year in space. Kelly handed over command of the International Space Station Monday to fellow astronaut Tim Kopra. Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov will depart the station later today in the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft, with a landing in Kazakhstan scheduled for 11:25 p.m. Eastern. Kelly will be too busy preparing to land to vote in the Texas primary election today, although Kopra will vote electronically from the station under a special procedure established for astronauts under state law. [CBS / SPACE.com]
Gogo may soon sign an agreement to use capacity on OneWeb’s planned constellation of satellites. Company executives said in a recent conference call that it expects to make an announcement soon about buying Ku-band capacity on a low Earth orbit constellation, with OneWeb the likely choice. Gogo, which relies primarily on air-to-ground technology to provide Internet access to aircraft, believes satellite is the best approach to providing broadband connectivity. [SpaceNews]
The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a commercial space bill Monday. The House passed by a 164-8 margin legislation that would require spaceflight participants launching from the state to sign informed consent waivers that limit their ability to sue in the event of an accident. Similar laws are on the books in several other states. The bill is part of an effort by the state to establish a spaceport near the Atlantic coast just north of the Florida border, although no company has yet signed up to launch from the facility if it is built. [Atlanta Business Chronicle]
The X Prize Foundation is starting to think about what its next space prize should be. A foundation official said in a recent presentation that the organization is starting the process to develop a new space prize that would succeed the Google Lunar X Prize, which is scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2017. The foundation hopes to have a follow-on prize in at least the advanced planning stages by the time the Google Lunar X Prize ends. [SpaceNews]
Jody Singer is the new deputy director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Singer has worked for NASA for more than 30 years, most recently as head of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at the center. She fills the position previously held by Todd May, who became the center’s director earlier this year. [Huntsville Times]
Thaicom is planning a successor to its IPStar broadband satellite. The company said it is in the process of securing licenses from the Thai government for Thaicom-9, which will operate in the same orbital slot as IPStar, also known as Thaicom-4. That satellite, launched in 2005, was a pioneer in direct-to-consumer broadband services. Thaicom reported a record profit in 2015 and said it is seeing growing demand from India. [SpaceNews]
The first Syrian in space is now living in exile in Turkey. Muhammed Faris flew to the Soviet Union’s Mir space station in 1987, becoming a national hero. Faris later was named head of Syria’s air force academy, but was critical of the Assad regime and, when the country’s civil war began, fled with his family to Turkey. He has turned down offers to seek asylum in Russia or Europe, working instead with the Turkish government on Syrian refugees and hoping for an end to the civil war. [The Guardian]
Those Meddling Kids
“However, when Mike discovers that an eccentric billionaire plans to fly to the moon, claim its vast, valuable mineral resources, and destroy the American flag planted by the Apollo 11 astronauts, the countdown to a spectacular adventure begins! Mike, teamed with his grandfather, best friends Amy and Marty, and a clever chameleon, blasts off on an incredible moon-bound mission, determined to thwart the billionaire’s evil plan, capture the flag, and reunite his divided family.”
– from the description of Capture the Flag, a direct-to-DVD animated film being released today