Weather delays first launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket by at least a day
The company said Sunday that high winds at its New Zealand launch site prevented the company from rolling the rocket out to the pad, pushing back the launch by a day to late Monday.
The company said its first launch, carrying on an inert payload, is scheduled for a window that runs through late next week.
Electron is a small rocket designed for launching satellites weighing up to 150 kilograms. [Stuff]
Astronauts will perform an unscheduled spacewalk Tuesday to replace a faulty electronics box outside the ISS. NASA said Sunday that flight controllers approved plans for the spacewalk to replace the multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay box, which failed Saturday. The failed MDM is one of two fully redundant units that controls the operation of the station’s solar arrays and other hardware. The failure hasn’t affected station operations, but controllers decided to replace the MDM with a spare unit as soon as possible. Astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson will replace the unit in a spacewalk scheduled to last two hours. [SpaceNews]
NASA is facing cuts across a wide range of programs in the administration’s 2018 budget proposal. That proposal is scheduled for release Tuesday, but a leaked document from early May, outlining the overall federal budget request, showed cuts in NASA science, exploration and space operations programs compared to what the agency received in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill signed into law early this month. The budget proposal offers $19.092 billion for NASA, a cut of more than $560 million from what Congress appropriated in 2017. [SpaceNews]
U.S. Air Force leadership believes that it should retain space operations as part of its mission. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said at a Senate hearing last week that he opposed ideas to create a “Space Corps” within the Air Force that some argue could be a first step towards an independent military branch. Goldfein said the idea “would actually move us backwards” because of the disruption that organizational change would cause. Goldfein also acknowledged the need to improve military space acquisition, an issue raised by the GAO in a new report. [SpaceNews]
An Air Force reorganization would make the head of Air Force Space Command a combat commander. In testimony last week, Gen. Jay Raymond, the current commander of Air Force Space Command, said the reorganization would make him the Joint Forces Space Component Commander. That move would give the head of Space Command warfighting powers, which that position currently lacks. Such a move could help streamline military space operations and provide a better link between requirements for space capabilities and their operation. [Breaking Defense]
Space Florida has been spared cuts in the latest state budget. Florida legislators approved a budget that provides Space Florida, the state’s space development agency, with $19.5 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the same amount as the agency received last year. Space Florida avoided cuts that other state economic development agencies received in the budget, in part because some legislators see the office as more of a transportation agency than an economic development one. [Florida Today]
Two maneuvering Russian satellites have resumed operations after being quiet for more than a year. The Cosmos 2491, 2499 and 2504 satellites attracted attention for performing in-space maneuvers after launches between 2013 and 2015, rendezvousing with the upper stage that launched them. After being idle for a year or more, Cosmos 2499 and 2504 started maneuvering again in recent weeks, with one of them passing close to debris from a Chinese satellite destroyed in a 2007 anti-satellite missile test. The maneuvers have raised alarms in the West that these may be tests of anti-satellite weapons, although others note that such satellites would have other applications as well. [The Daily Beast]
China’s first space laboratory module is scheduled to reenter as soon as October. The Tiangong-1 module, launched in 2011, hosted two crews of Chinese astronauts on Shenzhou missions in 2011 and 2013, but the spacecraft stopped functioning in March 2016. Chinese space agency officials say the spacecraft’s orbit is slowly decaying, and that Tiangong-1 will reenter some time between October 2017 and April 2018. Most of the spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere upon reentry. [gbtimes]
Jeff Bezos said he wants to build a base in the lunar polar regions as part of his long-term space aspirations. Bezos, speaking to a student audience at the Museum of Flight in Seattle Saturday, said a permanent human base at the poles is part of his vision for ultimately millions of people to live and work in space. That base would be supported by robotic landers, taking advantage of technology advances like machine learning to help build the base before humans arrive. Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, recently revealed plans for a lunar cargo delivery system called Blue Moon it seeks to develop in partnership with the government. [GeekWire]
Russian company RSC Energia has started work on a new medium-class rocket called Fenix. Yevgeny Mirkin, general design engineer at Energia, said initial design of the rocket has started, with a goal of starting test flights in 2022 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The rocket would be capable of placing 17 metric tons into low Earth orbit and 2.5 metric tons into geostationary orbit. [Interfax]
Astronomers are observing an unusual star whose brightness suddenly dimmed last week. The star, official known as KIC 8462852 but commonly called “Tabby’s star,” has a record of irregular changes in brightness, including a new decrease first spotted early Friday. Some have argued that the fluctuations in brightness are due to “alien megastructures” surrounding it, but other, more natural explanations of the phenomenon also exist, such as comet swarms or sunspot activity. [Space.com]
An Apollo 11 lunar sample bag that was the subject of a recent legal dispute will be auctioned this summer. Sotheby’s plans to auction the bag at its first space-themed auction in more than 20 years on July 20 in New York. The bag was mistakenly sold by federal marshals in 2015 to an Illinois woman, who sent the bag to NASA to confirm its authenticity. When NASA refused to return the bag, she sued, and a federal court ruled she was the rightful owner of the bag. [collectSPACE]