September 1, 2016

Questions About Insurance Coverage for Amos-6 Launch (Source: SPACErePORT)
According to Space News, Spacecom carried a $285 million policy insuring the satellite against loss as "marine cargo." This was in addition to a policy against loss due to a launch failure. Since the satellite's loss did not occur during a launch, the marine cargo policy was in effect. (9/1)

Did a Chinese Launch Fail on Wednesday?
(Source: GB Times)
A Chinese launch of a remote sensing satellite may have failed Wednesday. A Long March 4C was scheduled to to launch the Gaofen-10 satellite at 2:40 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, but there was no official report from Chinese media about either the launch or a launch delay, nor any notification of objects placed in orbit. Social media in China has distributed photos of debris from the rocket's lower stage that landed in a designated zone as planned, suggesting to some observers that the launch took place but a problem later in flight prevented the satellite from reaching orbit. (8/31)

GPS Funding Threatened by Nunn-McCurdy (Source: Inside GNSS)
Near-term funding for a GPS ground system could be complicated by its Nunn-McCurdy breach. The Air Force declared the Nunn-McCurdy breach for the OCX control system being developed for GPS 3 in June after its costs rose by 25 percent of its baseline. The Air Force is not able to give more money to the program while a Pentagon review is in progress, while increased spending on OCX means it will run out of money by mid-September. Raytheon, the OCX prime contractor, could be forced to cover costs of keeping the program team working until November. (8/31)

India Needs to Double Its Operational Satellites (Source: The Hindu)
The head of India's space agency says the country needs to double the number of satellites that provide various services. ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said Thursday that the 34 operational satellites India currently has to provide communications, Earth observation and navigation services is far less than what is required to serve India's needs. "Probably, we need at least double the number that we have today to give reasonable service to the country," he said in a speech at the Bangalore Space Expo 2016. (9/1)

Two Finalists Identified for Spaceport America Position (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico officials have selected two finalists to become the next head of Spaceport America. Daniel Hicks is the director of plans for White Sands Missile Range and John Williams is the former president and CEO of Universal Space Network. A third, unnamed finalist withdrew for personal reasons. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will choose between Hicks and Williams. (8/31)

Orion Abort System Tested (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne tested an abort system motor for the Orion spacecraft Wednesday. The test involved a jettison motor, which pulls the Launch Abort System tower from the Orion spacecraft both on routine flights and when the system is used to carry the Orion spacecraft away from a malfunctioning rocket. The company said the 1.5-second test was a success. (8/31)

Thousands to be Resettled for World's Largest Radio Telescope in China (Source: Xinhua)
Southwest China's Guizhou Province has started to move 8,000 people from their homes to make way for the world's largest radio telescope which will be completed in September, local authorities said. The people being moved out are from eight villages in Pingtang County, of Qiannan Buyi and Miao autonomous prefecture.

With a dish the size of 30 football grounds, FAST, the Five hundred meter, Aperture Spherical Telescope, is made of 4,450 panels. Scientists have depicted it as a super-sensitive "ear", capable of spotting very weak messages - if there are any - from space. Upon completion in September, FAST will require radio silence within a 5-kilometer radius.

A relocation budget is about 1.8 billion yuan (about 269 million U.S. dollars), has come from the poverty relief fund and bank loans. About a third of those being resettled are living under poverty line, and meet national requirements for resettlement, said Jiang Xiaoxiang, deputy head of the Pingtang County. Over 600 apartments have been built in two new settlements, about 10 kilometers from their original homes. (8/31)

Scandal Envelops Virgin Galactic’s Abu Dhabi Partner (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Aabar Investments is an Abu Dhabi-owned sovereign wealth fund that invested $390 million into Virgin Galactic in exchange for a 37.6-percent share of Sir Richard Branson’s space line. Khadem Al Qubaisi — who formerly headed up Aabar’s parent company — was arrested last month in Abu Dhabi in connection with what officials allege was a multi-billion dollar fraud perpetuated against a Malaysian government sovereign wealth fund.

Mohamed Badawy Al Husseiny, the Aabar CEO who signed the investment agreement with Branson during a ceremony at Oshkosh in 2009, also left his position last year. Badawy‘s assets also have been frozen and he has been forbidden to leave the country. The widening scandal — which had led to investigations in five countries — involves a transfer of $3.5 billion from Malaysia’s 1MDB development fund to an entity based in the British Virgin Islands that had a name similar to Aabar Investments.

U.S. investigators are currently broadening their probe into Mr. Qubaisi’s dealings and funds they suspect he took control of through the alleged fraud, according to people familiar with the probe. The Justice Department filed civil lawsuits last month seeking to freeze about $100 million of real estate in the U.S. that he allegedly bought with money embezzled from 1MDB, a fund set up in 2009 to boost Malaysia’s economy. (8/31)

Is Proxima B a Planet Like Earth? Depends on Proxima Centauri's Hosting Skills (Source: Newsweek)
Scientists have discovered a planet that appears to be similar to Earth circling the star closest to the sun, potentially a major step in the quest to find out if life exists elsewhere in the universe, research published on Wednesday showed. The relative proximity of the planet, known as Proxima b, gives scientists a better chance to eventually capture an image of it, to help them establish whether it has an atmosphere and water, which is believed to be necessary for life.

Future studies may reveal if any atmosphere contains tell-tale chemicals of biological life, such as methane, according to a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Nature. "The key question of our initiative was whether there were potentially life-bearing planets orbiting these stars. We know now there is at least one planet with some characteristics similar to the Earth," said Pete Worden. (8/24)

Russia to Build New Plesetsk Spaceport Launch Pad for Angara Rockets by 2019 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia plans to build a new launch complex for the Angara rocket family at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the northwest of the country by 2019, local media reported Monday. "The construction schedule has been agreed, a new launch pad will be created taking into account the experience gained in the construction of our first Angara launch complex at Plesetsk." (8/31)

Planet Nine Could Destroy Our Solar System, Scientists Say (Source: Independent)
Our solar system could be unexpectedly destroyed when the sun dies, because of a mysterious planet hovering at its edge. Until now, most scientists had assumed that many of our neighbors – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – would be able to survive the death of our star. They had predicted that the inflation of the Sun would swallow the Earth but would then become a white dwarf, pushing those planets to a safe distance.

But if there really is a Planet Nine hovering on the edge of our solar system then it could disrupt that happy ending, according to new research. That planet, which scientists increasingly believe exists, might not be pushed out to a distance and instead create a violent future for those planets that are still around. Click here. (9/1)

A European Satellite Got Hit by Some Kind of Space Debris (Source: Mashable)
An Earth-gazing satellite keeping an eye on our planet from above appears to have been whacked by a little piece of natural or human-made space debris. Engineers working with the European Space Agency's (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-1A spacecraft noticed a small and sudden dip in the power produced by one of the satellite's solar panels on Aug. 23, ESA said.

ESA mission controllers investigated the slight power loss, turning a couple of cameras on the spacecraft to try to see if there was any visible issue with the solar panel. And they found something interesting. Photos beamed back to Earth from the satellite showed evidence of some kind of collision between the solar panel and either a bit of space junk or a piece of dust. The damaged bit of the panel is about 40 centimeters, or about 16 inches, long, ESA said. Scientists still aren't sure exactly what kind of debris caused the power loss. (8/31)

NASA to Launch Asteroid Sampling Mission. Who Gets to Keep It? (Source: CSM)
NASA's first asteroid-capture mission to the space rock Bennu is preparing for launch on Sept. 8, and researchers expect it back more than seven years from now, on Sept. 24, 2023. But it's not too early to decide who takes the asteroid home for keeps. NASA plans to scatter the asteroid to its partners around the world, a form of scientific sharing that has become common in an age of tighter budgets for astronomical discovery.

Since cuts to the space budget began in the 1990s, "NASA’s come to realize that to get anything big done it has to reach out," says W. Henry Lambright, author of "Space Policy in the 21st Century" and a professor at Syracuse University in New York. "The incentives are greater now to reach out than before." (8/31)

Pentagon Eyes Missile-Defense Sensors In Space (Source: Defense One)
Even as the Defense Department begins to build a giant new flight-tracking radar in Alaska, it is already thinking bigger — and much higher.

The Missile Defense Agency is eyeing $400 million “to develop and test” a space-based sensor. It has already started work on something called “space-based kill assessment”: satellites that will determine if a missile is successfully intercepted in space. The Missile Defense Agency wants to use these satellites shoot down test over the Pacific Ocean.

And the payloads, he said, do not need to cost tens of billions of dollars like many Pentagon satellite projects. “Space does not have to be expensive,” he said. “I challenge you to think on what can be done commercially, with commercial partners and in more rapid fashion.” (8/31)

Temporary Spending Bill Could End Ex-Im Bank Logjam (Source: Space News)
The Obama Administration is seeking language in a temporary spending bill Congress must pass by the end of September that would allow the Export-Import Bank of the United States to resume approvals of large deals, including those involving commercial satellites.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submitted to Congress Aug. 29 a list of requested policy provisions called anomalies to a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the federal government for up to several months after the 2017 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The anomalies are changes to a CR that would otherwise continue programs at 2016 funding levels.

One of the requested anomalies seeks to effectively re-open the Ex-Im Bank for large deals. Although Congress reauthorized the bank in December 2015 after its authorization to do new business expired the previous June, three of the five seats on its board of directors are currently vacant. Since the board lacks a quorum, it cannot vote to approve new deals valued at more than $10 million. (8/31)

China Readies Next 'Heavenly Palace' for Mid-September Launch (Source:
China is readying its next piloted space mission, a multifaceted undertaking that will lay the foundation for the country to build a space station in Earth orbit in the 2020s. Both Tiangong-2 (whose name means "Heavenly Palace") and the piloted Shenzhou-11 spacecraft are now undergoing checkout at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

Tiangong-2, which is scheduled to launch in mid-September, is a true "space lab" that will verify key technologies for building China's space station, according to its chief designer, Zhu Zongpeng. Tiangong-2 has more facilities to ensure a comfortable stay for astronauts, including equipment for sending emails and receiving television programs from Earth, Zhu said. (8/31)

Roscosmos Announces Solicitation for Space Robots (Source: Tass)
Russia’s State Space Corporation, Roscosmos, has announced a tender to create space robots (Kosmorobot) that will assist cosmonauts during their extravehicular activities. The project’s contract price tag comes to 2.4 billion rubles ($36.78 million). This information has been published on the public procurement website.

According to the technical design assignment, the robots will have to carry out operations on the exterior of a spacecraft and assist the crew in spacewalks from the International Space Station (ISS). In addition, it is planned to carry out flight tests of the Kosmorobot (Space Robot) system as part of the ISS Science-Power Module (SPM, the launch planned for 2019). (8/31)

Falcon 9 Explosion Could Have Ripple Effects Across Space Industry (Source: Space News)
The apparent explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle during a static fire test Sept. 1 has implications for both commercial and government customers, including putting into jeopardy the sale of one satellite operator.

The explosion took place during preparations for a static fire test, part of SpaceX’s standard pre-launch preparations for Falcon 9 flights at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The test was in advance of a Sept. 3 launch of the Amos-6 communications satellite for Israeli satellite operator Spacecom.

SpaceX said that the Amos-6 payload was destroyed in the failure, which could jeopardize the planned acquisition of Spacecom by Beijing Xinwei Technology Group, a Chinese conglomerate. The deal, announced Aug. 24, was pending the successful entry into service of Amos-6 after the launch. (9/1)

Commercial Crew Now Delayed Until At Least 2018 (Source: Ars Technica)
Lots of rumors have swirled about further delays to NASA's commercial crew program, and now the agency's own inspector general has confirmed these setbacks in a new, critical report on progress toward first flights of Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon crew capsules.

In the new review, Inspector General Paul Martin writes, "The Commercial Crew Program continues to face multiple challenges that will likely delay the first routine flight carrying NASA astronauts to the ISS until late 2018—more than 3 years after NASA’s original 2015 goal." Officially, NASA has maintained that it expects to have at least one test launch of a crew vehicle from US soil by the end of 2017 and regular flights by early 2018.

However, Boeing has already acknowledged that an initial crewed Starliner launch will not occur until February 2018 at the earliest. Although SpaceX still maintains a launch is possible in 2017, that was before Thursday's accident on the launch pad involving a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket. The new report from the inspector general also predates Thursday's accident, the second major issue in 15 months associated with the Falcon 9 booster SpaceX intends to use as a launcher for the Dragon capsule. (9/1)

Boeing Building Hydrogen Tank For First SLS Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
There is a bridge on Interstate Highway 10 east of New Orleans that soars unnecessarily high above the waters it spans. It is a testament to the clout NASA once had in Washington, built to provide clearance for the huge launch vehicle the agency planned for human missions to Mars.

That Saturn V follow-on, dubbed Nova, never got off the drawing board. But the Michoud Assembly Facility where it was to have been built and shipped by water to Cape Canaveral is well into the process of building a human-rated Mars launcher. Technicians inside the 43-acre plant are forming the first large piece of flight hardware on a state-of-the-art welding tool and making many other smaller pieces, in preparation for launching a test flight around the Moon as early as 2018.

NASA plans to take advantage of the high-clearance bridge next year when it ships the core stage of its heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) by barge to nearby Stennis Space Center. There it will undergo a full-up hot-fire test in the same stand where the Saturn V first stage was fired in the 1960s. Click here. (9/1)

3.7-Billion-Year-Old Fossils May Be the Oldest Signs of Life on Earth (Source: Washington Post)
Scientists believe they have discovered the oldest fossils ever ... on a formerly snow-cropped mountain in Greenland. The 3.7 billion year old fossils, if confirmed, would push the Earth's fossil record back 200 million years. It supports the view that life existed close to the Earth's birth and could be more common throughout the universe. (8/31)

Ukraine's Yuzhnoye Considers Canadian Sites for Cyclone-4 Launches (Source: Yuzhnoye)
The Yuzhnoye Design Office in Ukraine has been authorized by the State Space Agency of Ukraine to proceed with a new international launch complex and operations in North America for the Cyclone-4 rocket. The search has begun for business and investment partners to develop the launch infrastructure and conduct sales, marketing, and mission management.

The all Ukrainian vehicle will offer highly competitive pricing ($45 million for 3700kg payloads to sun synchronous orbit) along with reliable launch services, and eliminate the need for US customers to seek waivers for the use of other launch service providers. Locations in Canada are being considered which would leverage and build upon the close ties between Canada and Ukraine. Operating from North America will provide operational convenience with negligible export control issues for customers.

Editor's Note: Yuzhnoye's Cyclone is an impressive vehicle that--like its Zenit--features a high degree of automation in its launch operations. Yuzhnoye had worked for decades with Brazil in a failed effort to establish an equatorial launch site for the Cyclone. Yuzhnoye also sent a delegation to Florida several years ago to announce plans for manufacturing and launching their proposed Mayak family of rockets at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (9/1)

Space Club Plans Lifetime Achievement Awards at September Luncheon (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) will present its 2016 Lifetime Achievement Awards to Charles Abner, Marshall Heard, Gary Ray and Michael Spence. They will be recognized for their distinguished roles in the space community at the September 13, monthly luncheon meeting. 1st LT S. Kyle Futch, 5th Space Launch Squadron, 45th Space Wing will also be recognized as the 2016 Rising Star Honoree. The event will be held at the Radisson at the Port, Cape Canaveral, at 11:30 am.

“Charles, Marsh, Gary and Michael have each made significant contributions to the space community through their impressive careers,” said Mark Jager, NSCFL Board Chairman. “The Space Club is proud to acknowledge their achievements.” The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes people for life-long achievement and contributions to the U.S. Space Program.

The NSCFL’s Rising Star Award recognizes younger professionals for their “above and beyond” accomplishments in the space program during the past year. “We are excited to also acknowledge 1st LT Futch,” said Jager. “His dedication to his career and his strong community outreach is an inspiration for our current and future space professionals.” (9/1)

Explosion Rocks SpaceX Launch Pad at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
An explosion at SpaceX's Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport has destroyed a Falcon-9 rocket during an ingnition test of the booster's first stage engines. Emergency responders at the spaceport have responded to the situation and are monitoring toxicity levels as smoke plumes billow from the site. It is unknown as yet whether there are any injuries, but such static engine tests are typically treated as launch events with the pad evacuated beforehand.

SpaceX had been planning to launch the rocket on Sep. 3, carrying a commercial communications satellite. The Amos-6 satellite, owned by Israel's Spacecom and valued at ~$200 million, was lost in the explosion. The loss may scuttle the planned sale of Spacecom to a Chinese firm, as the sale was reportedly pending the satellite's successful deployment. (9/1)

Is a Quick Turnaround Possible for SpaceX? (Source: SPACErePORT)
The accident occured on SpaceX's only operational launch pad, so substantial damage to the facility could result in a lengthy rehabilitation and a cascade of delays for other planned launches. SpaceX is activating Launch Complex 39A just to the north of Complex 40 for launches beginning later this year, so the company may be able to move launches to that pad while Complex 40 is being repaired. Or they may use equipment from Complex 39A to replace damaged equipment at Complex 40.

SpaceX is also developing its Boca Chica launch site in southern Texas. That project is behind schedule and far from completion, so while construction might be accelerated, it won't be available until well into 2017, if not 2018.

Orbital ATK suffered a similar setback in 2014 when an Antares rocket exploded just above Launch Pad 0A at Virginia's Wallops Island spaceport. Damage to the facility was surprisingly minor but repairs took a full year, amid legal controversy over who would pay for them. As with the Antares failure, SpaceX will probably have to endure an extensive investigation before a return-to-flight is allowed. (9/1)

Threats That Keep Huntsville’s Rocket Scientists Employed (Source: Aviation Week)
Since Wernher von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists set up shop in Huntsville, Alabama, in the early 1950s, “Rocket City” has cradled just about every U.S. space and missile project, from the nuclear-tipped PGM-11 Redstone to today’s NASA Space Launch System and the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) Ground-Based Interceptor. Home to U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville and its legions of scientists and engineers continue to push the limits of Western rocket technology for space exploration, global attack and national defense.

As Russia and China update their nuclear rocket forces with modern, complex missiles and “rogue” nations such as Iran and North Korea threaten pre-emptive attacks on the U.S. and its allies, Huntsville’s best and brightest are as busy as ever developing new tricks to counter new weapons of war. In this threat survey, we look at what keeps the men and women of Rocket City burning the midnight oil. Click here. (8/31)

SpaceX to Launch Satellite That Will Aid Facebook's Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A rocket set to launch from Florida's Space Coast this week is the next step toward Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's effort to provide Internet service to poorly connected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The head of the social media giant last year announced a plan to "deliver Internet from space" using satellites to "beam internet access down into communities from the sky."

The Amos 6 communications satellite will host that effort and heads into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket early Saturday morning, with a two-hour window expected to open at 3 a.m. Facebook had partnered with French satellite provider Eutelsat to pay $95 million to lease the satellite's supply of broadband-capable spot beams for five years. These beams will make Internet service available in 14 African countries, Space News reported. (8/30)

First Satellite-Based Wildlife Monitoring Tool for Airports (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Wildlife habitats close to airports pose a serious risk to safety at takeoff and landing. Thanks to ESA, a new service lets airports use satellites to identify and manage these areas. Developed by Ascend XYZ in Denmark with ESA's help, the service uses free images and data from Earth observation satellites combined with smart software.

Several airports in Denmark have tested the Ascend software and found it far easier to use than existing complicated standalone systems. Focusing on risk sites has increased their efficiency and reduced costs and enabled them to comply with the legal requirement to monitor within a 13 km radius. (8/30)

Microwave Instrument Caused NOAA Satellite Launch Delay (Source: Space News)
An instrument problem and ground systems issues contributed to the decision earlier this month to delay the launch of a weather satellite. NOAA announced in early August that the launch of JPSS-1, the first of a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites, had slipped from January to March, but offered few details about the reasons. Officials now say that one of the instruments, a microwave sounder, suffered problems that required sending it back to the manufacturer for repairs and tests. The JPSS ground system has also experienced a higher than expected number of problems during testing. (8/30)

India Bags Launch Contracts for 68 Foreign Satellites (Source: IANS)
India has contracts to launch 68 foreign satellites, including a dozen from the U.S., next year. The chairman of Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, said the 68 satellites include 12 from PlanetiQ, a U.S. company developing a smallsat constellation to collect weather data. Also among the satellites India plans to launch is a "heavier" Earth observation satellite from an unnamed customer. (8/30)

Russia Plans Weather and Reconnaissance Satellite Launches at Vostochny in 2017 (Source: Tass)
Russia is gearing up to perform two launches from its new spaceport next year. The Vostochny Cosmodrome, which hosted its first launch earlier this year, will support launches of a Meteor weather satellite and a Canopus imaging satellite in 2017. Russia hopes to increase the launches from the spaceport, in Russia's Far East region, to six to eight a year in 2018. (8/30)

Third Google Lunar X Prize Team Signs Launch Contract (Source: X Prize Foundation)
A third team competing in the Google Lunar X Prize has a verified launch contract. The X Prize Foundation announced Tuesday that it had verified Team Synergy Moon's launch contract for its lunar lander mission. Interorbital Systems, part of the Synergy Moon team, plans to launch the spacecraft in the second half of 2017 on its Neptune 8 rocket.

Interorbital has yet to place a payload in space and has released few details about its launch vehicle development progress. Moon Express and SpaceIL are the other two teams with verified launch contracts, which other teams must have by the end of this year to remain in the competition.

Editor's Note: I reached out to Interorbital Systems to learn more about their launch site plans. Here is the response from CEO Randa Milliron: "Interorbital plans to launch its X PRIZE mission from the Pacific Ocean. We are open to consider staging other future orbital and interplanetary flights from the ocean off the coast of Florida."  (8/31)

CU Boulder's Newest Minor - in Space - Has Lift Off (Source: CU Boulder)
Capitalizing on its reputation as a top public university in space research, the University of Colorado Boulder is launching a brand new Space Minor program for undergraduate students. The program, a component of CU Boulder’s Grand Challenge: Our Space. Our Future., will allow undergraduate students, regardless of major, to obtain a minor that complements their major degree with a set of five space-related courses.

The entry point to the minor is the required Pathway To Space course, which will provide a broad overview of all aspects of space science, engineering, technology and how space is influenced by the arts and humanities. Topics of the minor will include space science and exploration, human spaceflight and life sciences, aeronautics and near space, launch and spacecraft systems, climate and environment, space business, policy and politics, space arts, media and history.

Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle in Florida offers a full major Bachelor's Degree in Commercial Space Operations, and Florida Tech offers a similar minor track. (8/30)

The Signal Astronomers Saw was “Strong” Because it Came from Earth (Source: Ars Technica)
We cautioned readers that, because the signal was measured at 11Ghz, there was a "significant chance" it was of terrestrial origin, likely due to some military activity. Well, it apparently was.

First, astronomers with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence downplayed the possibility of an alien civilization. "There are many other plausible explanations for this claimed transmission, including terrestrial interference," Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer with SETI, wrote.

Now the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences has concurred, releasing a statement on the detection of a radio signal at the RATAN-600 radio astronomy observatory in southern Russia. "Subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin," the Russian scientists said. (8/30)

SpaceX Still Eyeing Fall Launch for Maiden Flight of Falcon Heavy (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Recent reports that SpaceX’s inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy would take place in the spring of next year (2017) don’t gel with what representatives at SpaceX have told SpaceFlight Insider. SpaceX Stats has reported that the first flight of the Falcon Heavy would take place in April of next year and that there was a 39 percent chance of launching at that time. The site goes on to state that this will be SpaceX’s first launch of the year.

Seeking to confirm this date, SpaceFlight Insider reached out to SpaceX spokesperson John Taylor who informed us that the Falcon Heavy is currently slated to take to the skies later this fall. At present, SpaceX, working under a 20-year lease with NASA, is renovating Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A to support launches of the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX has been kept busy in 2016 with eight successful launches having already been completed. Up next is the flight of the Amos 6, a 5.5 ton communications satellite that is currently slated for launch at 3 a.m. EDT on Sept. 3 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport’s Launch Complex 40. (8/31)

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