May 1, 2015

China's New Meteorological Satellite Now Operational (Source: Xinhua)
A new meteorological satellite, launched in last December, has been put into operation after four months of testing. The satellite was transferred from the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on Wednesday. The new satellite "Fengyun-II G" will improve China's weather monitoring and early warning for natural disasters such as typhoons, rainstorms, sandstorms and forest fires, said a SASTIND statement. (4/29)

Air Force Plans to Launch 1990s-Built Weather Satellite (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force plans to launch an aging weather satellite at an expected cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent a gap in forecasting capability and provide another competitive launch opportunity for privately held SpaceX.

General John Hyten, who heads Air Force Space Command, and Air Force Secretary Deborah James, said a decision had been made to launch the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Flight 20 satellite, which was built in the 1990s. James said the Air Force had little choice but to launch the satellite after European allies reversed a decision to launch a weather satellite of their own. (4/29)

Progress Supply Ship Lost, Falling to Earth (Source: Guardian)
A Russian spacecraft that is tumbling around the Earth after it malfunctioned en route to the International Space Station (ISS) could remain in orbit for more than a week before crashing down to Earth. If Russian engineers cannot regain control of the stricken vessel it could spiral down to Earth within the next 10 days.

The concern is now that if the spacecraft falls back to Earth on an uncontrolled path some fragments may fall on land. The danger to people is slim though: more than two thirds of the Earth’s surface are covered by water and only 3% of the land is heavily populated. Re-entry is anticipated between May 5-7. (4/29)

Arabsat Launch Contracts go to Arianespace and SpaceX (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Lockheed Martin will build two communications satellites for Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat, and Arianespace and SpaceX will launch the commercial relay platforms under contracts valued at $650 million. Arianespace said the HellasSat 4/SaudiGeoSat 1 satellite would launch in 2018 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Arabsat said it will sign a contract with SpaceX to launch the Arabsat 6A satellite. Arabsat 6A is sized to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, according to industry officials. (4/29)

Midland Spaceport Infrastructure Development to Cost up to $4.3 Million (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
The Midland Space Development Corp. on Tuesday received a presentation on the first phase of an estimated $4.3 million infrastructure project for the Spaceport Business Park at Midland International Air & Space Port.

Eric West, with Parkhill Smith & Cooper, showed the planned layout of the park, which will have more than a dozen lots in the southwest corner of Midland International. The first phase will cost about $2.1 million and will build road, water, sewer and drainage infrastructure on relatively undeveloped land. West estimated that construction will be completed by the first quarter of 2016. (4/28)

U.S. Air Force Outlines First Steps in RD-180 Replacement Effort (Source: Space News)
Facing congressional pressure to begin work on an American replacement for the Russian-built main rocket engine used today to launch most U.S. national security payloads, the U.S. Air Force quietly unveiled the initial steps in a procurement strategy that has been complicated by a key industry player’s own plans. Congress mandated last year that DOD develop a kerosene-fueled main rocket engine to replace the RD-180 by 2019.

One of the service’s first steps under the new strategy is to award six to eight contracts with a combined value of $31 million for companies to work on booster propulsion technologies, according to a draft broad agency announcement released April 24. The individual contract awards will range between $500,000 and $8 million. Companies will be eligible for multiple awards so long as the total value does not exceed $16 million.

A second, but overlapping, step is to develop a design for a complete new engine, according to another draft solicitation released late April 24. The idea, is to “take us to [preliminary design review] with a prototype plan,” Gen. Hyten said. The design could be a main- or upper-stage engine, the solicitation said. (4/29)

House Appropriators Reject Budget Increase for FAA Commercial Space Office (Source: Space News)
A House appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill for the FAA April 29 that does not include an increase for the FAA’s space office, despite repeated concerns by the office’s leadership that it lacks the resources to keep pace with growing commercial launch activity. The House Appropriations transportation, housing, and urban development (THUD) subcommittee approved a $55.3 billion spending bill.

The bill goes to the full committee, which has not yet scheduled its own markup session. The bill, which funds the FAA among other agencies, includes $16.6 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. That is the same amount that the office received for 2015, but $1.5 million less than what the Obama administration requested for fiscal year 2016, which begins Oct. 1. (4/29)

Northrop Grumman Misses 1Q Profit Forecasts (Source: AP)
Northrop Grumman reported first-quarter profit of $484 million. The results did not meet Wall Street expectations. The defense contractor posted revenue of $5.96 billion in the period, surpassing Street forecasts. Northrop Grumman expects full-year revenue in the range of $23.4 billion to $23.8 billion. (4/29)

McCain Wades In Again on RD-180 (Source: Breaking Defense)
Sen. John McCain came out swinging about the Russian RD-180 rocket engine during a Senate Armed Service strategic forces hearing. McCain began yesterday by asking Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James if she knew that a company called Amross was making millions of dollars of profits from the sale of the Russian rocket engines to the US. James clearly wasn’t sure what McCain was talking about.

He plowed ahead, noting there was a story by Reuters several months ago about it. That pinged a memory for James. She told McCain she remembered the two stories and said she understood the departments of Commerce and Justice had cleared the Florida firm, formally known as RD Amross, of possible wrongdoing. “It’s acceptable to have an outfit run by cronies of Vladimir Putin and a middle management that makes $80 million in markups?” McCain pressed her. “You think that’s acceptable to the American taxpayer, that we will be subsidizing an outfit that uses the cronies of Vladimir Putin?" (4/30)

Three Launches of Russian-Ukrainian Rockets Due in 2016-2018 (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia's Roscosmos plans three more launches of Russian-Ukrainian rockets in the framework of the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025. In 2017, the last launch of the Zenit carrier rocket is planned from the Baikonur spaceport, the document said. Zenit will deliver the Spektr-RG spacecraft to the orbit. Another Spektr spacecraft - Spektr-UF - will be delivered to the orbit by a Russian Proton carrier rocket.

Two Rockot carrier rockets will be launched from the Plesetsk spaceport in 2016 and 2018. Each of them will deliver three Gonets satellites to the orbit, according to the program’s project. From 2019, Gonets satellites will be delivered to the orbit by Angara-1.2 light carrier rockets. According to earlier reports, Roscosmos decided to replace Russian-Ukrainian Zent carrier rockets with Angara rockets. (4/30)

Nicaragua Lawmakers Give Fast-Track OK to Russian Satellite Ground Station (Source: Daily Journal)
Nicaragua's parliament on Wednesday authorized the establishment of a Russian satellite ground station in the Central American nation. Officials say the base will permit the operation of a system similar to GPS for peaceful uses, such as mitigating natural disasters. Opposition legislators object that the measure, which originated as an urgent presidential decree sent to parliament this week, was fast-tracked through without proper time for study. (4/29)

Are You Ready for ADS-B? (Source: General Aviation News)
In his opening remarks during this year’s SUN ’n FUN, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker noted that he came in a day early to the show so he could take some time to walk around the grounds and see everything. “I was encouraged to see all the ADS-B equipment,” he said, noting that “in the last 12 months there has been a lot of activity surrounding ADS-B.” Editor's Note: ADS-B is also a potential tool for space traffic management and launch vehicle tracking. (4/29)

Satellite Industry Responds to Nepalese Earthquake (Source: Via Satellite)
Following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the nation of Nepal on April 25, satellite companies and organizations have stepped in to provide emergency telecommunications services. As of April 27, the United Nations (UN) reported more than 3,000 deaths and thousands more injuries. The Nepal government’s National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) described the disaster as the worst earthquake to hit the area in the past 80 years, and aftershocks continue to complicate rescue efforts.

In response to this tragic event, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has deployed 35 satellite mobile phones and 10 satellite Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals as well as laptops and solar panels. The supplies are expected to aid in restoring critical communications and coordinating relief efforts where terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure has been compromised or destroyed. (4/28)

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