mahia peninsula launch site
Rocket Lab's launch site on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Credit: Rocket Lab

Weather again delayed the first launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

Wind conditions at the company’s New Zealand launch site subsided to allow the rocket to roll out to the launch pad, but the company said concerns about “triboelectrification,” or static electric charges as the rocket passed through high-level clouds, led them to postpone the launch.

The launch window for the mission remains open until early June. [New Zealand Herald]

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Astronauts have started a “contingency” spacewalk to replace an electronics box on the International Space Station. Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson started the spacewalk at 7:20 a.m. Eastern, about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. The two are expected to take two and a half hours to replace the multiplexer-demultiplexer unit, which controls solar panels and other external systems, after it failed on Saturday. They will also install wireless communications antennas on the outside of the Destiny module, a task deferred from a spacewalk earlier this month. [NASA]

Air Force officials are confident that new heavy-lift vehicles will be ready by the time the service retires the Delta 4 Heavy in 2023. The Air Force has purchased seven Delta 4 Heavy launches until 2023, at which point it expects new vehicles, such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy or Blue Origin’s New Glenn, to be available for payloads that require the Delta 4 Heavy. Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, told a House committee last week he was not concerned about a recent BE-4 engine test setback, saying that it confirms the Air Force’s strategy to have multiple engines under development to ultimately replace the RD-180. [SpaceNews]

Indonesian satellite operator PT Telkom is collaborating with Intelsat while planning a new line of satellites. The company said Sunday that it has moved its 12-year old Telkom-2 C-band satellite to the same orbital slot as Intelsat-5, a 20-year-old, C-band satellite, to expand its use of Intelsat services. PT Telkom executives also said they’re in the early stage of development of two high-throughput satellites to provide cellular backhaul services. [SpaceNews]

Australia’s military is planning to make more use of commercial satellite capacity despite being a partner on a U.S. military system. The Australian Defence Force expects to use commercial capacity for communications in addition to its share of the Wideband Global Satcom constellation, for which Australia funded one satellite. That approach is intended to give Australia’s military greater resiliency and redundancy through a mix of satellite communications options. [SpaceNews]

The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center has a new commander. Lt. Gen. John Thompson formally took command of the center, known as SMC, in a change-of-command ceremony Monday in Los Angeles. Thompson was confirmed to the position by the Senate last fall. The former SMC commander, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, will become head of the Missile Defense Agency. [SpacePolicyOnline]

A former State Department lawyer is now the general counsel for an asteroid mining company. Planetary Resources announced Monday that it has hired Brian Israel, who had been in the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser from 2009. Israel, in that job, was the lawyer responsible for interpreting and applying the country’s international legal obligations on space issues, including the contentious issue of ownership of space resources. In his new role, Israel will oversee legal, regulatory, and compliance functions for Planetary Resources, which has aspirations to extract resources from near Earth asteroids. [Planetary Resources]

A former NASA center director has taken an industry job. James Free is the vice president of the new Aerospace Systems Group of Peerless Technologies Corp., responsible for growing the agency’s civil and military space business. Free served for more than three years as director of the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland before taking a position at NASA Headquarters last year as a deputy associate administrator for human exploration and operations. He retired from the agency earlier this month. [Dayton (Ohio) Business Journal]

Two former astronauts were inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame over the weekend. Michael Foale and Ellen Ochoa were inducted in ceremonies at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, bringing the total number of former astronauts in the hall to 95. Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, flew on four shuttle missions and is now director of the Johnson Space Center. Foale’s career included long-duration missions on the Russian Mir space station and the ISS. [collectSPACE]

The birth of healthy mice on Earth is a promising sign for future human space settlement. In an experiment, Japanese researchers flew freeze-dried mice sperm on the ISS for nine months, where it was exposed to much higher radiation levels than found on Earth. Upon its return, scientists found that the DNA in the sperm had suffered damage from radiation, yet the sperm was able to fertilize eggs and give birth to 73 mice, roughly the same number as expected from an equivalent amount of normal sperm. Scientists believe the damaged DNA was repaired after fertilization and had no long-term effect on the mice. The finding is seen as welcome news both for astronauts who seek to have children after time in space as well as future settlement beyond Earth. [Science]

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...