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.
Falcon 9 Launches Orbcomm Satellites, Lands First StageOMAHA, 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.
Japan Approves ISS Extension through 2024The 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.
Mars InSight Lander Won’t Launch until 2018 — If it Launches at AllWASHINGTON — 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.
Inmarsat Orders Two Sixth-Generation Satellites from Airbus Defence and SpaceInmarsat 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.
Etisalat and Thuraya Partner to Offer Mobile Telecommunications via SatelliteEtisalat 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.
Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space to Supply Comsat NG Satellite to French Defense MinistryThe 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.