United Launch Alliance has postponed the next Atlas 5 launch because of an investigation into last week’s launch anomaly.
The launch of the MUOS-5 satellite, previously scheduled for May 5, is now planned for no earlier than May 12 in order to give engineers more time to investigate an engine issue on the March 22 Cygnus launch.
On that launch, the first stage engine shut down six seconds early, requiring the upper stage to fire more than a minute longer than planned to place the spacecraft into the proper orbit. [Florida Today]
The Japanese space agency JAXA is working to restore communications with a malfunctioning astronomy satellite. JAXA said Sunday that it lost communication with the Hitomi satellite early Saturday. The loss of communications coincided with the detection of several pieces of debris in the vicinity of the spacecraft by the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center. The spacecraft itself still appears to be mostly intact, but is spinning. JAXA launched Hitomi last month to perform x-ray astronomy, with some of its instruments contributed by NASA and other space agencies. [SpaceNews]
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station Saturday. The station’s robotic arm grappled the Orbital ATK-built spacecraft shortly before 7 a.m. Eastern Saturday and berthed it to the Unity module about four hours later. The Cygnus, launched last Tuesday night, carried more than three metric tons of supplies and experiments for the station. It will remain at the station for nearly two months. [CBS]
Experts are increasingly optimistic that commercial companies will resume crewed launches from Florida in 2017. Both Boeing and SpaceX are working to carry out such missions for NASA’s commercial crew program, with test flights carrying crews planned by both companies in 2017. That timeline seems realistic, according to outside experts, even though it’s likely both companies will run into unforeseen problems before those launches take place. [Orlando Sentinel]
Egypt is expected to purchase a French military satellite in an arms deal to be finalized next month. A French newspaper reported that a military communications satellite, to be built by Airbus, will be part of a $1.2 billion arms deal that will be signed when French President François Hollande visits Egypt in April. That deal, though, is not expected to include a high-resolution Earth imaging satellite as once thought. [Spacewatch Middle East]
A missile range on an Scottish island could host commercial launches, European companies believe. QinetiQ and Airbus have proposed using the Hebrides Missile Range in the Outer Hebrides as a commercial launch site, primarily for a notional new launch vehicle for launching small satellites. A spaceport there would be separate from U.K. plans to designate an existing airport as a commercial spaceport. [The Sunday Express]
Some of Saturn’s moons, and its rings, may be less than 100 million years old. Computer models of the Saturn system show that the orbits of some of the inner moons are “less dramatically altered than previously thought,” suggesting that they may not be as old as once believed. Those inner moons and the rings could perhaps be no more than 100 million years old, having formed from the collision of other moons. [SPACE.com]
A safety expert who worked with NASA after the Columbia accident has passed away. R. Scott Stricoff, president of Behavioral Science Technology, worked with NASA to improve its safety culture, an effort that included establishing a new safety center for the agency at the Langley Research Center. Stricoff “devised a strategy of how to engage engineers, scientists, and technical professionals at our 10 NASA centers in reinvigorating a strong culture of safety,” said former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. [Boston Globe]
The Week Ahead
- Washington: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will speak at a Space Transportation Association luncheon on Capitol Hill.
- Washington: The technology, innovation and engineering committee of the NASA Advisory Council will meet at NASA Headquarters.
- Xichang, China: Anticipated launch of two Beidou navigation satellites on a Long March 3B at approximately 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
- Washington: The Space Studies Board of the National Academies holds its annual Space Science Week of meetings of various committees. The event includes a public lecture by Alan Stern about the New Horizons mission Wednesday evening.
- International Space Station: Scheduled undocking of the Progress M-29M cargo spacecraft from the station. The Progress will remain in orbit for tests before reentering on April 8.
- Washington: The Universities Space Research Association and GWU’s Space Policy Institute host a space weather symposium, with speakers from government and academia.
- Baikonur, Kazakhstan: A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch the Progress MS-02 cargo spacecraft to the ISS at 12:23 p.m. Eastern.
- Washington: The NASA Advisory Council will meet at NASA Headquarters.
- International Space Station: Scheduled docking of the Progress MS-02 spacecraft with the station at about 2 p.m. Eastern.