Falcon 9 first stage approaches Just Read the Instructions in the Atlantic Ocean after successfully launching CRS-6 to the International Space Station. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is seeking permission to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral on its next launch later this month.

A NASA official said Tuesday that SpaceX is planning to land the first stage at the company’s “Landing Complex 1,” the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral, on the mid-December launch of 11 Orbcomm satellites.

“Their plan is to try to land [the next booster] out here on the Cape-side,” Carol Scott of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program said during a media briefing.

SpaceX did not confirm the report, and the landing would require the permission of the range and the FAA.

Previous attempts by SpaceX to land the Falcon 9 first stage used a ship in the Atlantic, but SpaceX said their long-term goal was to bring the stage back on land. [Florida Today]

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The launch of a European science satellite has been delayed at least a day to investigate an issue with the upper stage of its launch vehicle. ESA announced Tuesday that the launch of its LISA Pathfinder spacecraft on a Vega rocket, previously scheduled for late Tuesday evening, would be postponed to give engineers more time to study an issue with the Vega’s upper stage. Of particular concern is the thermal environment the stage will be exposed to during its long coast between engine burns. If that analysis is completed in time, the launch could take place tonight at 11:04 p.m. Eastern. [Spaceflight Now]

The majority owner of Sea Launch is seeking to sell the commercial launch company in a cost-cutting move. An industry source said RSC Energia is looking to fund a buyer for Sea Launch “as soon as possible” to relieve the company of the $30 million it costs annually to maintain Sea Launch’s ships and other infrastructure. Sea Launch has not performed a launch since mid-2014. The report claimed that negotiations with potential buyers are underway, but didn’t identify the potential purchasers. [TASS]

A launch readiness review has given approval for Thursday’s launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS. The review, completed Tuesday, gave the go-ahead for the Atlas 5 launch of the Cygnus spacecraft during a 30-minute launch window that opens at 5:55 p.m. Eastern at Cape Canaveral. Weather forecasts still estimate a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch time Thursday. [NASA]

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The final version of a transportation bill includes a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. The bill, announced Tuesday by House and Senate conferees after reconciling their separate bills, would reauthorize Ex-Im through September 2019. Authorization for the bank lapsed at the beginning of July, preventing it from doing new deals. The space industry has lobbied for the bank’s reauthorization, given the growing role it has played over the last several years financing commercial satellite and launch deals. [Reuters]

The U.S. military has suffered hundreds of cases of jammed satellite communications this year, all apparently self-inflicted. Gen. John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, said he was aware of 261 cases of jamming this year, apparently caused when other transmissions, including radars and other communications, interfere with satellite downlinks. “How many were caused by an adversary?” he asked. “I really don’t know. My guess is zero.” Hyten added he is taking steps to move experienced satellite operators from staff positions back into day-to-day control of spacecraft. [Breaking Defense]

A Martian Love Letter

“We were a large part of the making of the movie, and I think most comments have been that it was a resounding success. We, under a Space Act Agreement, did provide technical assistance to the screenwriter, Drew Goddard. He described the movie as, actually, very much a love letter to NASA, and it actually was.”

– NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, discussing NASA’s role supporting the movie The Martian at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council Tuesday.

Internet service providers in Africa are benefiting from an increase in satellite capacity there. The head of SkyVision Global Networks Ltd., which leases capacity on nearly a dozen satellites, said his customers have been pushing for lower prices, and in turn he has pressured satellite operators to lower their prices. He added he is not concerned about potential overcapacity from upcoming satellites, since “people can never get enough data.” [SpaceNews]

A second former NASA employee pleaded guilty this week to a charge linked to the case of a Chinese researcher once accused of espionage. Daniel J. Jobson, a retired research physicist at the Langley Research Center, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating a government regulation and was sentenced to six months probation. Another former Langley scientist pleaded guilty to the same charge in October. The two were supervisors of Bo Jiang, a Chinese scientist arrested in 2013 on espionage charges. Those charges were later dropped, and Jiang left the country after accepting a lesser charge of improper use of his government-issued laptop. [Hampton Roads (Va.) Daily Press]

An exoplanet orbiting far from its host star was likely hurled there by some kind of gravitational interaction. Astronomers noted this week that the planet, HD 106906 b, nearly 16 times farther from its star than Pluto is from the sun, is not aligned with a disk of comets recently found around the star. Astronomers said that “some violent gravitational interaction,” perhaps by another, massive planet, likely disturbed the system and sent HD 106906 b to the hinterlands. [Washington Post]


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...