SpaceX Launches SES-9 SatelliteWASHINGTON — After a variety of problems delayed four previous launch attempts, a SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched the SES-9 communications satellite March 4, although an attempted landing of the rocket’s first stage on a ship was not successful, as expected.
The upgraded Falcon 9 lifted off at 6:35 p.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket released the SES-9 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit 31 minutes after liftoff.
The outcome of an attempt by SpaceX to land the rocket’s first stage on a ship about 600 kilometers downrange from the launch site was initally uncertain. Video from the ship was lost at the stage appeared to be approaching, and SpaceX ended its webcast coverage of the launch without providing an update on the status of the landing attempt. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later tweeted that the rocket “landed hard” on the ship.
Scott Kelly Back on Earth After Nearly a Year In SpaceThe Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft carrying Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov landed in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night, more than three hours after undocking from the International Space Station.
Kelly and Kornienko spent 340 days in space, a U.S. record for Kelly, while Volkov spent a more typical six months on the station.
All three appeared to be in good condition after landing. Kelly is scheduled to return to Houston late tonight.
Inmarsat to Launch Fourth Global Xpress SatelliteInmarsat has decided to launch the fourth Global Xpress satellite, originally procured fromBoeing as a spare but with the potential to support an incremental business case, in the latter part of 2016.
The operator announced intentions to orbit the satellite with its full year financial results March 3, stating that the company is exploring a number of different orbital locations, business opportunities and related revenues for this satellite. Following the decision to launch, Inmarsat has adjusted its 2018 revenue outlook. Inmarsat expects that group revenues, excluding those from LightSquared, will increase to between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion in 2016, and will reach between $1.45 billion and $1.6 billion in 2018, mainly as a result of Global Xpress.
NASA Decision on InSight Mars Lander’s Future Expected SoonWASHINGTON — NASA could make a decision within a week on the fate of a NASA Mars lander that is facing about $150 million in additional costs because of an instrument problem that caused it to miss its launch window this year.
In a presentation to a meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) here March 2, Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator of the InSight Mars lander mission, said the project has completed a revised plan for the mission that supports a launch in 2018, and presented that plan to NASA officials a day earlier.
“That presentation went very well,” he said of the NASA briefing. “We had a lot of probing questions and difficult conversations, but overall, I think that we got a positive response.”
Air Force Could Fund Aerojet Rocketdyne Engine Even if ULA Doesn’t Use ItWASHINGTON – Aerojet Rocketdyne has held discussions with at least two unnamed launch providers, in addition to United Launch Alliance, who have an interest in using the AR1 rocket engine the company is developing, Aerojet’s president said March 1.
The U.S. Air Force announced Feb. 29 it was investing $115 million this year, and with options, as much as $536 million over the next five years, in AR1, a new liquid oxygen- and kerosene-fueled main-stage engine. The contract award is part of an Air Force initiative to end reliance on the Russian-built RD-180 engine that powers ULA’s Atlas 5 workhorse rocket.
The Air Force said in a Feb. 29 announcement that its AR1 investment is being made with the intent that it would power ULA’s next-generation rocket, known as Vulcan.
X Prize Planning For Next Space CompetitionWASHINGTON — With its current flagship space competition set to end in less than two years, the X Prize Foundation is starting the planning for its next space-related challenge.
In a Feb. 24 presentation to the Future In-Space Operations working group, Andrew Barton, director of technical operations for the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition, said the X Prize Foundation is preparing to develop a new space prize to succeed the GLXP.
“X Prize, beyond the Google Lunar X Prize, does want to keep doing this kind of thing,” Barton said. The foundation held a prize design workshop at a recent meeting of teams involved in the GLXP, he said, and plans additional such workshops in the future.
How a Hospital Ship Relies on Satellite to Save LivesOff the coast of sub-Saharan Africa there is a hospital ship where volunteers have conducted thousands of life-changing, often life-saving surgeries and medical procedures. Operated by Mercy Ships, a nonprofit with teams of professionals from around the world, this vessel uses satellite communications to heal and teach people in areas with limited resources.
Maritime is a big and growing area for satellite communications, but Mercy Ships is not your typical example. Since 1978, the organization has operated between one and three ships, reaching people with medical services and teaching life skills in more than 70 countries. Today, the Texas-based nonprofit uses one ship known as Africa Mercy. Chris Gregg, chief information officer at Mercy Ships, told Via Satellite that satellite technology has played a role on Mercy Ships since its first charity ship, the Anastasis, sailed in the early 1980s, and that the applications for satellite are changing.
Home Again, At Last: Soyuz Capsule Brings Astronauts to EarthAfter a record-setting 12-month stay on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth yesterday (March 1). Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov returned with them after spending six months in space.
A stunning photograph snapped by veteran NASA photographer Bill Ingalls shows the Soyuz capsule serenely parachuting through Earth's clouds, carrying the space travelers home.
The Soyuz-TMA-18M spacecraft landed near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 11:25 p.m. EST (0425 GMT on March 2) carrying the space travelers home after completing Expedition 46. Upon landing, the space fliers underwent a 60-minute "field test" to assess their initial condition.