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Monday, December 28, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Dec 21 – Dec 28 2015)

NASA Orders Second Commercial Crew Mission from Boeing
NASA took an important step Friday to establish regular crew missions that will launch from the United States to the International Space Station with the order of its second post-certification mission from Boeing Space Exploration of Houston.
"Once certified by NASA, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon each will be capable of two crew launches to the station per year," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station."
This is the third in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing and SpaceX received their first orders in May and November, respectively, and have started planning for, building and procuring the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first missions for the agency. NASA will identify at a later time which company will fly a mission to the station first.

Artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing
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Falcon 9 Launches Orbcomm Satellites, Lands First Stage
OMAHA, Neb. — A SpaceX upgraded Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Dec. 21 and placed 11 Orbcomm satellites in orbit, while the first stage successfully landed back near the launch site at Cape Canaveral.
The upgraded Falcon 9 lifted off at 8:29 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Deployment of the 11 Orbcomm satellites started about 14 minutes after liftoff, and Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc Eisenberg said on Twitter that all 11 satellites had checked in after deployment.
While the Falcon 9’s second stage ascended towards orbit, the first stage started a series of burns to head back to a decommissioned launch site called Landing Zone 1, several kilometers south of the launch site. The first stage touched down on the pad there nearly 10 minutes after liftoff and remained upright, according to webcast video of the landing attempt.

A Falcon 9 first stage moments for touching down in the dead center of Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after launching 11 Orbcomm satellites Dec. 21. Credit: SpaceX webcast
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Japan Approves ISS Extension through 2024
The government signed an agreement Tuesday with the U.S. government to continue to be part of the station program through 2024.
Japan operates the Kibo laboratory module and provides cargo through its HTV spacecraft, which will continue to fly during the station’s extension.
JAXA said in a statement it will be “promoting unprecedented utilization” of the Kibo module.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier this month that Japan would sign onto an extension of the ISS, but the formal agreement for that was still being finalized at the time.

Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of  JAXAtalks on a satellite phone in a chair outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, landed in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in Kazakhstan in May 2014. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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Mars InSight Lander Won’t Launch until 2018 — If it Launches at All
WASHINGTON — If it isn’t canceled altogether, NASA’s Mars InSight lander will now launch more than two years later than planned, thanks to a balky seismometer, the agency’s top science official told reporters Dec. 22.
“We’re looking at some time in the May 2018 timeframe,” John Gunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science, said during a Dec. 22 conference call.
InSight was supposed to launch in March, but a series of leaks in a mission-critical instrument, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) provided by the French space agency, CNES, will keep the mission grounded well past a 26-day Mars launch window that opens March 4, Grunsfeld said.
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Inmarsat Orders Two Sixth-Generation Satellites from Airbus Defence and Space

Inmarsat has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build the first two mobile communications satellites for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation fleet (I-6). The contract, valued in the region of $600 million for construction of the two satellites, will see Airbus deliver the first satellite, Inmarsat 6 F1 (I-6 F1), by 2020.
Inmarsat’s I-6 fleet will feature dual payloads that support L-band and Ka-band services. The operator is using an all-electric design to take advantage of the reduction in fuel mass to pack in a larger payload. Based on the Eurostar E3000e variant, I-6 F1 and F2 will carry a large 9-meter aperture L-band antenna and nine multibeam Ka-band antennas. A new generation modular digital processor will provide full routing flexibility over up to 8,000 channels and dynamic power allocation to more than 200 spot beams in L-band. Ka-band spot beams will be steerable over the full Earth disk, with flexible channel to beam allocation.  The satellites will take four to six months to reach orbit, depending on the type of launcher used. Each satellite is designed to remain in service for more than 15 years.

Earth, Space, Satellites, Tracking, Satellite, Symbol
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Etisalat and Thuraya Partner to Offer Mobile Telecommunications via Satellite

Etisalat has partnered with Thuraya Telecommunications to launch its new AnA Emarati mobile proposition, offering its mobile post-paid customers a bundle of Thuraya Telecommunication’s satellite-enabled calling minutes and Short Message Service (SMS) from anywhere in the world.
Customers opting for the AnA Emarati mobile post-paid satellite bundles can continue to place both GSM and satellite calls using their same, existing mobile number and phone. They benefit from an additional free SIM card with the same number to be inserted in the satellite Hotspot device. To make a satellite call, users need to have a clear line of sight to the satellite, which means outdoor areas with no trees or obstacles.

Tower, Antennas, Technology, Communication, Mobile
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Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space to Supply Comsat NG Satellite to French Defense Ministry

The French defense procurement agency Direction Generale de l’Armement (DGA), part of the French Defense Ministry, has selected the consortium formed by Thales Alenia Space (65 percent) and Airbus Defence and Space (35 percent) to build and deliver the military satellite communications system, Comsat NG.
The Comsat NG contract covers the construction and launch of two military communications satellites for the French armed forces, to replace the Syracuse 3A and Syracuse 3B satellites, launched in 2005 and 2006, respectively. The new satellites will enter in service in 2021 and will give France a higher performance system featuring new services.
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Monday, December 21, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Dec 14 – Dec 21 2015)

Soyuz Crew Enroute to International Space Station
Two experienced fliers and a space newbie — the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station — launched spaceward on a Russian rocket today (Dec. 15) to begin a six-month science mission on the laboratory in orbit.
At 6:03 a.m. EST (1103 GMT) today, American astronaut Tim Kopra of NASA, British astronaut Tim Peake (of the European Space Agency) and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a 6-hour journey to the space station. Malenchenko, a veteran of six spaceflights (including trips to the station as well as to Russia's Mir space station), is commanding the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft. The crewmembers are part of Expedition 46 mission to the International Space Station, and will remain onboard for Expedition 47.

Expedition 46 Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and  flight engineers Tim Kopra of NASA, center, and  Tim Peake of ESA farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket for launch Dec. 15 from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky     Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
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Thales Alenia Inks Deal To Build 2 More Sentinel Satellites for ESA
ROME — The European Space Agency on Dec. 15 contracted with Thales Alenia Space to build two C-band radar satellites, Sentinel-1C and Sentinel-1D, as part of the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation system.
The contract, valued at 402 million euros ($441 million), will help guarantee the promised data continuity of the multibillion-euro Copernicus effort, which includes 15 satellites performing a range of Earth observation missions.
The Sentinel-1A satellite was launched in 2014 and the identical Sentinel-1B is scheduled for launch in April aboard a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket. Each is designed to operate for at least seven years in polar low Earth orbit, with sufficient fuel to last for 12 years.

Satellite, Soyuz, Spaceship, Space Station, Aviation
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FAA Advisory Group Endorses “Moon Village” Concept
WASHINGTON — A Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee has recommended that the FAA start discussions with the European Space Agency about commercial participation in an international lunar base concept promoted by the agency’s leader.
The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what’s known as “Moon Village.” The vote was conducted by email after COMSTAC held a meeting via teleconference on the topic Dec. 10, committee chairman Mike Gold said Dec. 15.
The recommendation states that the FAA, “after consulting with the appropriate U.S. agencies, engage directly with ESA in support of the ‘Moon Village’ concept, with the goal of fostering the participation of U.S.-based commercial entities in the planning and creation of the ‘Moon Village.’”

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SpaceX Preparing for Launch of “Significantly Improved” Falcon 9
WASHINGTON — SpaceX is gearing up for both the first launch of its Falcon 9 rocket since a June launch failure and the first flight of a “significantly improved” version of the vehicle, but questions remain about the company’s plans to attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage.
SpaceX is planning a static fire test of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Dec. 16. If successful, that test would clear the way for a launch attempt “about three days later,” or Dec. 19, between 8 and 9 p.m. Eastern, according to a Dec. 10 press release from Orbcomm, the launch’s customer.
SpaceX has released few details about launch preparations, but Orbcomm said in a Dec. 14 statement that the 11 second-generation spacecraft being launched had been attached to the satellite dispenser and placed inside the rocket’s payload fairing. That statement indicated that the static fire test was still scheduled for Dec. 16. SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said Dec. 15 that the company was not disclosing when during the day the test would take place.

Rocket, Flight, Spacex
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NASA Receives $19.3 Billion in Final 2016 Spending Bill
WASHINGTON — The final version of a fiscal year 2016 spending bill will provide NASA with nearly $19.3 billion, funding most agency programs at or above the administration’s original request.
The omnibus spending bill, released by House and Senate appropriators early Dec. 16 after extended negotiations, allocates $19.285 billion to NASA for fiscal year 2016. That total is $756 million above the administration’s requested budget and the total provided the agency in a House spending bill passed in August. It is nearly $1 billion above a Senate bill that appropriators approved in June but was never passed by the full Senate.
That increased spending, enabled by a budget bill passed in October that raised overall spending caps for discretionary programs, allowed appropriators to avoid long-standing debates about agency spending priorities by funding most programs at, or in some cases well above, the administration’s request.

Nasa, Usa, Kennedy Space Center
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NASA Reviving Effort To Put Spare Orbiting Carbon Observatory Sensor on ISS
SAN FRANCISCO — With funding in the 2016 omnibus spending bill approved by House and Senate appropriators, NASA will be able to revive Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, a dormant effort to measure carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.
The OCO-3 program,  using an instrument leftover from NASA’s campaign to build the free-flying Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 launched in 2014, will track carbon dioxide from its perch on the exterior of the International Space Station.
The project, which was on hold due to a lack of funding, is back in the budget because NASA’s Earth Science Division will receive nearly eight percent more money in 2016 than it did in 2015 if the congressional budget pact is signed by President Barack Obama. “We hopefully will launch OCO-3 in the 2018 timeframe,” Michael Freilich, NASA’s Earth Science Division director said Dec. 16 during his annual Town Hall meeting at the American Geophysical Union conference here.

Satellite, Iss, Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis
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Monday, December 14, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Dec 7 – Dec 14 2015)

SpaceX Shooting for a Dec. 19 Falcon Return-to-flight Launch

Elon Musk said SpaceX will launch its Falcon 9 rocket late next week on its first mission since a June launch failure.
Musk, in a tweet early Thursday, said a static fire test of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for Dec. 16 and, if successful, launch would take place “about three days later.”
There had been rumors that SpaceX was planning to launch Dec. 19, but no official word from the company. The launch, when it does occur, will place 11 Orbcomm satellites into orbit on the first flight of the upgraded “full thrust” Falcon 9.

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Inmarsat and Turksat Enter Collaborative Partnership

U.K.-based Inmarsat and Turkish state-owned satellite operator Turksat have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore opportunities through the formation of a strategic partnership, initially focused on the defense and aviation sectors.
Under the MoU, Inmarsat would be Turksat’s preferred mobile satellite communications provider. Inmarsat expects Turksat’s strong links across the Caucasus and Central Asia will enable the operator to increase its penetration in this region of the world.

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Japan Seeks To Become Full Partner with U.S. in Space

WASHINGTON — As American and Japanese officials praised the strong relationship the two countries share in civil and military space activities, one Japanese officials at a recent forum said he sought to elevate his country’s role in that partnership.
In a speech at a Dec. 10 event here on the U.S.-Japan alliance in space organized by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, Takeo Kawamura, a member of the House of Representatives of the National Diet of Japan with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said his country should become “equal partners” with the U.S. in space.
“The main idea I have here is to move from dependency to coexistence with the U.S.,” said Kawamura, speaking through an interpreter. “That’s my challenge today, to establish a more equal relationship.”

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Inmarsat and EM Solutions to develop world’s first MilSatCom/GX maritime terminal

Inmarsat has announced a new partnership with EM Solutions to develop the world’s first combined MilSatCom/Global Xpress (GX) maritime satcom terminal. The new terminal is scheduled to receive full Inmarsat accreditation during Q2 2016 and will be submitted for Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) certification.
The new terminal, which is initially being created for an Australian Government customer, will contain a number of innovative features, including tracking via monopulse technology and easy switching between GX and MilSatCom systems. The terminal will also be substantially lighter, lower cost and faster than any comparable MilSatCom device.

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Soyuz Spacecraft Crew Lands on Earth After 141 Days on Space Station

Three space station crewmembers made a rare nighttime return to Earth on Friday (Dec. 11), safely landing in Kazakhstan after 141 days in orbit.
Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) touched down at about 8:12 a.m. EST (1312 GMT or 7:12 p.m. local time) on board their Russian Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft. The parachute and thruster-assisted landing put the trio down northeast of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan about two hours after sunset.
The return marked only the sixth time that a Soyuz crew came home from the International Space Station at night, after more than 40 such landings. The returns are usually targeted for daylight to assist in recovery operations but a change in the launch schedule for an upcoming upgraded Russian cargo ship resulted in the post-sunset timing.

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Spectacular Video Shows Test Launch of New Earth-Return Capsule

A small rocket carried four technology experiments to suborbital space last month, and onboard cameras captured the flight in breathtaking detail.
The rocket, built by Denver-based UP Aerospace, launched Sunday (Nov. 6) from Spaceport America in New Mexico carrying four separate payloads, including a capsule called Maraia that NASA is developing to return science gear from the International Space Station to Earth. You can watch an amazing video of the rocket launch and Maraia deployment, courtesy of UP Aerospace.
The video includes footage of the rocket — which reached a maximum altitude of 75 miles (120 kilometers) — separating from the Maraia capsule, and then the capsule returning to Earth. The cameras were mounted on the launch vehicle and in the rocket's nose fairing.

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Orbital ATK Looks Ahead as Cygnus Arrives at ISS

WASHINGTON — As the first Cygnus mission launched on an Atlas rocket arrived at the International Space Station, Orbital ATK was already looking ahead to the second such mission, as well as resuming flights in 2016 of an updated version of the company’s own Antares launch vehicle.
The Cygnus spacecraft, flying a mission designated OA-4, arrived at the ISS early Dec. 9, two and a half days after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The station’s robotic arm grappled the spacecraft and berthed it to the Unity module, where it will remain until January.
Cygnus brought to the station more than 3,500 kilograms of cargo, such as crew supplies, space parts for the station, and experiments that include satellites that will later be deployed from the ISS. That is the most cargo ferried to the station since commercial cargo missions by Orbital and SpaceX began in 2012.

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Get ready for Li-Fi, a technology 100 times faster than Wi-Fi

In the next few years we might be hearing a lot more about LiFi (sometimes also called “Li-Fi”), an alternative to Wi-Fi in some circumstances that uses light as the transmission medium, and is supposedly capable of 1 Gbps speeds. That’s much faster than the average Wi-Fi speed that most of us have today. With such high throughput, it would be possible to download content such as movies in a fraction of the time it takes now.
LiFi (which in fact stands for Light Fidelity) is a two-way communication technology that sends data using light, via LED bulbs which flicker on and off at a frequency not even noticeable to our eyes. The technology was invented in 2011 by Harald Haas and has supposedly already been demonstrated (in lab conditions) at an amazing 224 Gbps. LiFi is now an international standard, opening the door for lots of new and exciting products in the near future.
LiFi has also recently been put to practical use outside the lab, being trialled in offices in Tallinn, Estonia, where speeds did indeed reach 1 Gbps.  “We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilise the VLC (visible light communication) technology,” Deepak Solanki, CEO of Estonian firm Velmenni recently told IBTimes UK.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Nov 30 – Dec 7 2015)

Atlas Launches Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft to Space Station

WASHINGTON — An Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft Dec. 6 after three days of delays, resuming deliveries of essential supplies and experiments to the International Space Station by U.S. companies.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 401 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 4:44 p.m. Eastern time. The Cygnus spacecraft, on a mission designated OA-4, separated from the rocket’s upper stage 21 minutes after liftoff after entering orbit 230 kilometers above the Earth.
The Cygnus spacecraft, named the S.S. Deke Slayton II by Orbital ATK, deployed its solar arrays shortly after entering orbit, and company officials said the spacecraft was in good health as it began a two-and-a-half-day approach to the ISS.

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How Satellite Made a Difference in Nepal

When the April 2015 earthquake rattled Nepal, it destroyed sobering amounts of infrastructure, took lives, and displaced millions. Everyone affected was forced to adapt to the new environment. Himalayan Life, an organization already on the ground in Nepal doing projects in education, protection and caretaking for children, challenged itself to address the needs of those who had lost nearly everything. To reach those impacted, satellite technology played a critical role in providing much needed communications.
For the second article in a two-part series, Via Satellite interviewed Daniel Burgi, CEO of Himalayan Life, about his organization’s involvement as a surrogate first responder.

How hundreds of volunteer mappers are helping to keep Nepal earthquake aid from getting lost
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Russian Military Satellite Suffers Launch Failure, Will Crash Soon

An advanced Russian military satellite was doomed by a setback during launch Saturday (Dec. 5) and could come crashing back to Earth in the next day or so, according to media reports.
The Kanopus-ST remote-sensing spacecraft failed to separate from the upper stage of its uncrewed Soyuz-2-1v rocket as planned during Saturday's liftoff from Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwestern Russia, Russia's TASS news agency reported today (Dec. 7).
"One of the four locks holding onto the satellite malfunctioned," TASS reported, citing an unnamed source in the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces

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Inmarsat Global Xpress Now Provides Full Global Coverage

The third Inmarsat Inc., Global Xpress satellite is now fully operational after reaching its final orbital position. Activation of the third satellite in a fleet of three provides complete global coverage of the company’s program to heighten global communication capabilities on land, at sea and in the air, according to a company statement.
Inmarsat-5 (I-5) F3 provides satellite communications coverage from its position over the Pacific Ocean. It launched in August after a two-month delay caused by the failure in May of the Khrunichev-International Launch Services Russian Proton rocket as it dispatched a Mexican communications satellite.

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How Inertia Saved LISA Pathfinder Mission

LONDON — Europe’s LISA Pathfinder fundamental-physics satellite was successfully launched Dec. 3 on a mission to help prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but it has already demonstrated – once more – Newton’s law of inertia as applied to government programs.
The launch, from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America, also marked the end of the long demonstration phase for Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher, which has now posted six successes in six launch attempts.
The Italian-led Vega rocket has completed its European Space Agency-financed test phase, which included multiple missions to showcase Vega’s versatility.

In this  ESA image, taken with an ultra-wide angle fisheye lens Nov. 19, the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft is hidden from view, encapsulated in the upper stage of its Vega rocket.
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Washington Weighs an FAA Role in Managing Space Traffic

WASHINGTON – The White House and members of U.S. Congress are in early discussions about how to give the Federal Aviation Administration a role in monitoring the space environment and heading off collisions between commercial satellites, a task currently handled by the U.S. Air Force, sources tell SpaceNews.
The discussion has a sense of urgency, sources said, as several new businesses, many with ties to Silicon Valley, have plans to launch hundreds of satellites in the coming years. With that in mind, proponents are asking Congress to move quickly to find a home for space traffic management.
Any such shift likely would have the blessing of the Pentagon. Leaders from Air Force Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command have said they would like to lessen the burden on military space operators so they can concentrate on preparing for potential conflicts in space.

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Virgin Galactic Acquires Boeing 747 for LauncherOne Missions

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Virgin Galactic announced Dec. 3 that it has purchased a Boeing 747 jetliner to serve as the new carrier aircraft for its LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle.
The aircraft, unveiled during an event at the San Antonio, Texas, facility where the plane is being modified, will allow LauncherOne to carry heavier payloads than if it was launched from the company’s WhiteKnightTwo airplane, as originally planned.
“We basically wanted to maximize the productive capacity of the Newton engines we were developing” for LauncherOne, said George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, in a Dec. 3 phone interview. The company studied how big they could make LauncherOne if not constrained by how much WhiteKnightTwo could carry, then looked at what aircraft could handle that vehicle.

Using a Boeing 747 as the launch platform for LauncherOne will allow Virgin Galactic to double the vehicle's payload performance, increasing the size of the market it can serve, according to company officials. Credit: Virgin Galactic
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New Law Unlikely To Settle Debate on Space Resource Rights

WASHINGTON — Language in a new commercial space law that grants companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other solar system bodies provides them with some certainty, but they acknowledge that the law is likely not the last word on the issue.
President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 25 the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, the final version of a commercial space bill approved by the House and Senate earlier in the month. Most of the bill is devoted to issues regarding commercial space transportation, including extensions of third-party launch indemnification and restrictions on regulations regarding safety of commercial spaceflight participants.
One section of the new law, though, that has received a large amount of attention is the part about space resources. That section states that U.S. citizens shall have rights to any resources they extract from asteroids, moons or other bodies, “including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell” those resources.

A Deep Space Industries concept for a spacecraft that could retrieve space resources from the surface of an asteroid. Credit: Bryan Versteeg / DSI
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