SpaceX plans to increase its launch rate to one every two or three weeks once it starts using a new Florida launch pad.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that launch rate should be possible once it starts flying out of Launch Complex 39A, the former shuttle pad that SpaceX has been renovating.
The company made similar predictions about its launch rate a year ago, and for a time last year was launching every few weeks prior to a September pad explosion that grounded the Falcon 9 until last month.
SpaceX is also working to repair the Cape Canaveral pad damaged in the explosion, with a projected repair cost “far less than half” the estimated $100 million cost of a new pad. [Reuters]
NanoRacks and Boeing will collaborate on the development of a private airlock for the International Space Station. The companies announced Monday that NASA has approved their proposal for installing the airlock on the station, which will be used for the deployment of small satellites that currently are released from the Kibo module. The companies plan to have the airlock on the station by 2019, and could later move it to a commercial space station. [SpaceNews]
SpaceX and Planet are among the companies that have signed on to a “friend of the court” brief opposed to President Trump’s immigration order. The two are among 127 tech companies that supported the brief filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco regarding the executive order that denied entry into the country by people from seven nations. A federal judge in Seattle blocked the order in a ruling Friday, and the Justice Department has appealed. The Circuit Court will hold a hearing on the case today. [USA Today]
A deal with OneWeb had led a solar panel manufacturer to expand its plant. SolAero is spending $10 million to modernize its Albuquerque, New Mexico, facility to produce solar panels for OneWeb’s constellation of 900 satellites. The updated facility will be able to produce both the panel structures as well as the solar cells and circuits. SolAero expects to be producing the first flight article solar panels for OneWeb there in 45 days. [SpaceNews]
Scientists are optimistic that ESA will proceed with development of a space-based gravitational wave observatory. A European consortium submitted a proposal to ESA last month for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), featuring three spacecraft linked by lasers to detect gravitational waves. ESA is expected to select LISA for flight likely in the early 2030s. Scientists said they’re optimistic about LISA’s prospects because of the discovery of gravitational waves last year, as well as the technical performance of the LISA Pathfinder mission last year, which exceeded expectations. NASA will contribute about 20 percent of the mission’s cost through instruments and other technologies. [SpaceNews]
Planetary scientists are still puzzled how Mars could be warm enough early in its history to support liquid water on its surface. Despite significant geological evidence that water once flowed on the surface, a new study raises questions about how the planet’s atmosphere could be warm enough to allow water to remain liquid. That study suggests Mars had far less carbon dioxide in its early atmosphere than required to sufficiently warm the planet. One possibility is that other greenhouse gasses warmed the planet, although such gases would be short-lived in the atmosphere. [Space.com]
Even black holes can be slow eaters. Scientists observing a massive black hole found that the black hole appears to be slowly devouring a star over the last 11 years. Previously, the black hole consumed stars that approached too close within a year. Astronomers said that it’s possible this star was far more massive than previous ones that met their demise at the black hole. [AP]
A soccer ball flown on Challenger has finally made it to space, three decades after the shuttle’s tragic demise. The ball was flown on Challenger by astronaut Ellison Onizuka, whose daughter was a soccer player at Clear Lake High School. The ball was recovered and later returned to the high school. Shane Kimbrough, the current ISS commander whose son attends the same school, flew the ball to the station and posted an image of the ball floating in the station’s cupola, with the Earth in the background. [collectSPACE]