U.S. Export-Import Bank. Credit: House Minority Whip

The nominee for U.S. Trade Representative says he’s waiting for instructions from the White House about the future of the Ex-Im Bank.

At a confirmation hearing Tuesday, Robert Lighthizer told senators that it would be up to President Trump whether to nominate new board members for the bank, which has supported satellite and launch deals in recent years.

A lack of a board quorum prevents the bank from approving any deal larger than $10 million, and the administration is rumored to be considering shutting down the bank. [Reuters]

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In its first head-to-head competition with United Launch Alliance, SpaceX won an Air Force contract for a GPS satellite launch. The Air Force announced Tuesday it awarded a $96.5 million contract to SpaceX for a GPS 3 satellite launch planned for 2019. SpaceX won a similar GPS launch contract last year, but ULA declined to submit a bid. ULA confirmed last September, when proposals were due for this contract, that it was bidding. [SpaceNews]

The assets of Firefly Space Systems, a small launch vehicle developer, will be sold at auction this week. A public notice states that EOS Launcher, Inc., a creditor, will sell the assets Thursday at its offices in California. EOS Launcher was incorporated earlier this year and its president is Maxym Polyakov, a Ukrainian entrepreneur who says in his LinkedIn profile that he is developing a private space venture that will offer “the full circle of space-related services” including launch. Firefly ran into financial problems last September when an investor backed out, forcing the company to furlough its staff. [SpaceNews]

NASA has selected the astronaut that will fly on the first of several Soyuz seats the agency procured from Boeing, according to Russian media. The report states that Joseph Acaba will fly to the station this fall on a seat that originally would have been vacant, given Russian plans to to reduce its space station crew from three to two. That seat was the first of up to five that Boeing obtained from Energia as part of a settlement and subsequently sold to NASA. Acaba’s backup will be Shannon Walker, who would be in line to fly to the ISS next year on the second seat procured in that deal, according to the report. NASA has not confirmed the astronaut assignments. [TASS]

Global satellite operator SES was a virtual no-show at last week’s Satellite 2017 conference because of company priorities. The company lacked the high-profile presence in years past at the satellite industry conference, including skipping a panel of satellite operator chief executives, because of company decisions to focus resources on events where it can better connect with potential customers. “We have to make huge, enormous efforts to go deep into the markets in which we operate,” a company spokesman said. [SpaceNews]

Russia’s space agency is starting the search for new cosmonauts that it says could one day fly to the moon. Roscosmos announced the new cosmonaut recruitment drive Tuesday, saying it’s looking to hire six to eight cosmonauts that would fly a new crew vehicle, Federation, under development. Those missions, Roscosmos added, would include flights to the moon. Russian government plans for its human spaceflight program have proposed lunar missions, although none are expected before the late 2020s. [AFP]

A Spanish company has successfully conducted the first test of its balloon-borne rocket. Zero 2 Infinity said that, in a March 1 test, the company lofted a Bloostar rocket to an altitude of 25 kilometers on a balloon; the rocket then released and fired its engine for a few seconds, as planned. The test was intended to demonstrate the rocket’s telemetry systems, and is part of a broader program to demonstrate Bloostar’s ability to launch small satellites. [SpaceNews]

The Canadian government is providing funding to support UrtheCast’s imaging satellite system. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development said Tuesday it was providing $13.1 million to UrtheCast as part of the government’s Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative. The money will help develop UrtheCast’s OptiSAR constellation of optical and radar imaging satellites. The funding will be provided by the government in quarterly installments over the next four years, and must be repaid over a 15-year period starting in 2023. [UrtheCast]

Weather is looking favorable for Friday night’s Delta 4 launch of a military communications satellite. An initial forecast for the launch, scheduled for 7:44 p.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral, Florida, calls for a 90-percent chance of acceptable weather at launch. The launch of the ninth Wideband Global Satcom satellite was scheduled for earlier this month but delayed because of a booster issue. [Spaceflight Now]

House members are seeking less restrictive regulation of commercial space activities. At a recent hearing of the House space subcommittee, leading members said they opposed a proposal made last year by the Obama administration to create a “mission authorization” system to provide oversight of commercial space activities not covered by existing licensing systems. Some witnesses at the hearing argued that the language in the Outer Space Treaty requiring such oversight to perform “authorization and continuing supervision” had been misinterpreted, but others said some degree of regulation is needed to ensure safe space operations. [SpaceNews]

A site in Nova Scotia could potential host launches of a Ukrainian rocket. Martime Launch Services, a Canadian company founded by three Americans, said Tuesday it selected a location near the town of Canso, Nova Scotia, on the Atlantic coast, as its launch site for Cyclone-4 rockets. The company would have to build the launch site and also raise the funding needed for the site and the overall venture. The company claims it could launch as many as eight rockets a year by 2022. [CBC]

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...