December 29, 2015

China Launches a Disaster Prevention Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China's state-run news agency, is reporting that the nation has launched its "most sophisticated observation satellite," ever. Gaofen-4 is reportedly the country's first geosynchronous high-definition imaging satellite and has been designed to watch over us and keep a look out for natural disasters. The craft will also, as part of China's earth observation project, help out with weather prediction and forest monitoring. It's the fourth of seven planned craft, each one expected to zoom around the planet for upwards of eight years. (12/28)

Air Force Awards More Propulsion Study Contracts (Source: Space News)
The Air Force has awarded rocket propulsion study contracts to three more companies. The awards, announced last week on the Federal Business Opportunities website, go to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman and Orbital ATK. The contracts are valued between $3.1 million and $6 million each, but the announcement did not provide any additional details about the awards. The Air Force has now awarded seven contracts, with a total value of $17 million, for engine studies. (12/28)

Roscosmos Agency Replaced by Roscosmos Corp. (Source: Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin formally replaced the country's space agency with a state-run corporation Monday. In a decree signed by Putin, Roscosmos will be formally abolished Jan. 1 and replaced by a state-run corporation of the same name and with the same duties. The decree executes a law passed in July to reorganize Russia's space sector. (12/28)

Roscosmos Postpones Moon Mission (Source: Sputnik)
The new Roscosmos will postpone plans for human missions to the moon until after 2025. A revised 10-year plan for the country's space program defers plans to develop vehicles and other technologies needed to land humans on the moon, saving $1.2 billion. Russian officials have recently suggested that plans for sending humans to the moon would be pushed back until the late 2020s. (12/28)

SpaceX, ULA Up Their Lobbying Games (Source: Politico)
SpaceX and United Launch Alliance are setting personal records in lobbying. So far in 2015 SpaceX has spent more than $1.3 million lobbying Congress, while ULA has spent over $900,000, on track to "easily" break each company's records when the companies report their final 2015 expenses. Those lobbying costs are linked to debates on Capitol Hill regarding competition in the Air Force's EELV program and access to Russian-built RD-180 engines used by ULA's Atlas 5. (12/28)

Congress: NASA Must Speed Habitation Module (Source: Space News)
Congress wants NASA to speed up work on a habitation module by giving the program more money and a deadline. The fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill includes $55 million for a habitation module, and includes a requirement that a prototype of such a module be completed by 2018. NASA has already indicated that a habitation module was a key technology it planned to develop for future Mars missions, an effort that includes long-duration test flights in cislunar space. However, its work so far has been limited to a series of study contracts awarded earlier this year. (12/28)

Bolivian Satellite Revenues Justify Replacement Bird (Source: Space News)
A Bolivian communications satellite is expected to generate $500 million in revenue over its life. The Chinese-built TKSAT-1 satellite, also known as Tupac Katari, launched two years ago and is now 75 percent full, its capacity sold to Bolivian government and commercial entities. The expected revenue the satellite will provide over its 15-year life should justify a replacement, according to the Bolivian Space Agency. (12/28)

Indian Reusable Launcher Demo Delayed (Source: ENS)
Technical problems could further delay the launch of an Indian reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator. Unspecified issues with the winged vehicle, called RLV-TD, have postponed its launch on a suborbital mission until at least February, and possibly April. The schedule of other Indian launches is also a factor in the delay. The vehicle was originally set to fly in mid-2015, then delayed until the end of the year. (12/28)

Dawn Probe Looks for Signs of Life on Ceres (Source: Forbes)
NASA's Dawn probe is on the lookout for evidence of microbial life on the dwarf planet Ceres. "The first priority is to look for surface deposits where there's an active geyser or conduit of material to the surface where those salts are forming and then analyze them for biological material," said Christopher Russell, a UCLA planetary scientist and principal investigator for the Dawn mission. (12/28)

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