So far in 2015 SpaceX has spent more than $1.3 million lobbying Congress, while ULA has spent over $900,000, on track to “easily” break each company’s records when the companies report their final 2015 expenses.
Those lobbying costs are linked to debates on Capitol Hill regarding competition in the Air Force’s EELV program and access to Russian-built RD-180 engines used by ULA’s Atlas 5. [Politico]
Russian President Vladimir Putin formally replaced the country’s space agency with a state-run corporation Monday. In a decree signed by Putin, Roscosmos will be formally abolished Jan. 1 and replaced by a state-run corporation of the same name and with the same duties. The decree executes a law passed in July to reorganize Russia’s space sector. [TASS]
The Federal Space Agency has been shut down. The agency’s responsibilities will be transferred to the Roscosmos state corporation
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) December 28, 2015
The new Roscosmos will postpone plans for human missions to the moon until after 2025. A revised 10-year plan for the country’s space program defers plans to develop vehicles and other technologies needed to land humans on the moon, saving $1.2 billion. Russian officials have recently suggested that plans for sending humans to the moon would be pushed back until the late 2020s. [Sputnik]
Want to get these briefings even earlier? Here’s the signup.
China launched an Earth observation satellite Monday. A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 11:04 a.m. Eastern and placed the Gaofen-4 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. The spacecraft will operate in geostationary orbit, providing images that are relatively low resolution — about 50 meters per pixel — by conventional Earth imaging standards, but much sharper than other spacecraft operating in that high orbit. Chinese officials say the satellite will be used for civilian applications. [South China Morning Post]
The Air Force has awarded rocket propulsion study contracts to three more companies. The awards, announced last week on the Federal Business Opportunities website, go to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman and Orbital ATK. The contracts are valued between $3.1 million and $6 million each, but the announcement did not provide any additional details about the awards. The Air Force has now awarded seven contracts, with a total value of $17 million, for engine studies. [SpaceNews]
For the College Football and Space Fan Who Has Everything
Sports website SBNation picked one item for sale by each company sponsoring the nearly 40 college football bowl games.
So what did they choose for the Military Bowl, whose sponsor is Northrop Grumman?
The James Webb Space Telescope.
“It’s not really for sale, but I bet if you PayPal this company $8.7 billion, they’ll make you one too,” they advise.
Congress wants NASA to speed up work on a habitation module by giving the program more money and a deadline. The fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill includes $55 million for a habitation module, and includes a requirement that a prototype of such a module be completed by 2018. NASA has already indicated that a habitation module was a key technology it planned to develop for future Mars missions, an effort that includes long-duration test flights in cislunar space. However, its work so far has been limited to a series of study contracts awarded earlier this year. [SpaceNews]
A Bolivian communications satellite is expected to generate $500 million in revenue over its life. The Chinese-built TKSAT-1 satellite, also known as Tupac Katari, launched two years ago and is now 75 percent full, its capacity sold to Bolivian government and commercial entities. The expected revenue the satellite will provide over its 15-year life should justify a replacement, according to the Bolivian Space Agency. [SpaceNews]
Technical problems could further delay the launch of an Indian reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator. Unspecified issues with the winged vehicle, called RLV-TD, have postponed its launch on a suborbital mission until at least February, and possibly April. The schedule of other Indian launches is also a factor in the delay. The vehicle was originally set to fly in mid-2015, then delayed until the end of the year. [Express News Service]
One question facing SpaceX: what to do with the Falcon 9 first stage it successfully landed last week? SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the stage would not fly again, but would be used for ground tests. If the company eventually decides to put the historic vehicle on display, it has a number of options, from the National Air and Space Museum to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s “rocket garden” to its own facilities. [collectSPACE]
Japan’s space agency has been inundated with applications to become an astronaut, of sorts. JAXA said it received more than 2,000 applications to find eight men to participate in a two-week stress test, where participants will be monitored as they carry out activities similar to those performed by astronauts on the ISS. One factor might be the money: participants will receive 380,000 yen ($3,150) for the two-week experiment, nearly double the average monthly salary for recent college graduates. [Japan Times]