SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of its next Falcon 9 launch at sea.

The company confirmed a report Thursday that the first stage of the Falcon 9 launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base Jan. 17 on the Jason-3 mission will attempt to land on a ship in the Pacific Ocean.

The company successfully landed the Falcon 9 first stage from its last launch from Cape Canaveral last month, but two previous attempts to land the stage on ships in the Atlantic failed. []

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A key House member criticized the Air Force for its handling of a weather satellite program. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the committee’s strategic forces subcommittee, said the Air Force has effectively wasted more than $500 million on the DMSP-20 weather satellite, which the Air Force built and put into storage for years as it decided whether or not to launch it. “We could have saved the Air Force and the Congress a lot of aggravation if we put a half of a billion dollars in a parking lot and just burned it,” Rogers said. While the Air Force did request funding to launch DMSP-20 in its 2016 budget request, Congress allocated no funds for it in the final omnibus bill. Congress, Rogers said, “had lost confidence in the Air Force’s ability to manage this program.” [SpaceNews]

The Air Force has delayed the launch of an experimental missile warning satellite until at least 2018. The Air Force said in a request for information this week it is planning to launch the satellite in 2018 or the first half of 2019. Previously, the Air Force planned to fly the wide-field-of-view sensor as a secondary payload as soon as this year in a sole-source deal with Space Systems Loral that was cancelled shortly after it was issued in 2015. [SpaceNews]

Bigelow Aerospace has laid off up to several dozen employees after a hiring binge. In a statement, company president Robert Bigelow said a December review concluded the commercial space habitat developer was “overstaffed” in many departments and carried out the layoffs as it transitions from research and development to commercial operations. The company did not disclose exactly how many people were laid off. The company was actively recruiting for much of 2015, seeking to fill more than 100 positions both at its Las Vegas headquarters and a propulsion division is opened in Huntsville, Alabama. [SpaceNews]

Five Hundred Million Dollar Shave Club

“We spent $500 million that could have been used to support national security. Instead, it’s going into the trash. I presume it’s going to be made into razor blades.”

– Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), at Thursday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing, complaining about the DMSP-20 satellite that was built, placed into storage, and now likely will be scrapped.

China is planning to perform more than 20 launches in 2016, including one human mission. Chinese officials said the country plans to launch later this year its Tiangong-2 laboratory module, which will be followed by the Shenzhou-11 mission carrying a crew to visit the module. Shenzhou 11 would be the first Chinese human spaceflight mission since 2013. China is also planning test launches of the new Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets. [Xinhua]

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ViaSat claims its satellite-based broadband service for aircraft will remain faster than a competing product from Gogo. ViaSat CEO Mark Dankberg said his company’s use of Ka-band satellites means it will continue to provide faster service than Gogo’s planned Ku-band system, despite Gogo’s claims that it will offer more bits per megahertz. ViaSat, which will launch its first ViaSat-2 satellite on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy later this year, wil provide more details about its planned ViaSat-3 system next month. [SpaceNews]

The Canadian Space Agency has awarded a contract for an inspection system for the ISS. The CSA said Thursday that Neptec Design Group will design an advanced vision system that, when attached to the station’s robotic arm, will be able to inspect the station’s exterior. The system, valued at $1.2 million, will be flown to the station in 2020. [CBC]

A company with long-term ambitions to mine asteroids has demonstrated how those resources could be used. Planetary Resources unveiled yesterday a small structure that was 3-D printed using metal from a meteorite, the first time meteorite metal has been used in a 3-D printing system. The same concept can be used in space, the company argues, processing materials mined from asteroids. “With infinite resources, you really have infinite possibilities,” said company CEO Chris Lewicki. [GeekWire]


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...