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Cape Canaveral could see 30 launches this year, space official says

An Atlas 5 rocket carrying the MUOS-5 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida June 24, 2016. Credit: ULA/Ben Cooper.

Missile-warning satellite launch is the first of potentially more than 30 planned for Cape Canaveral this year.

The vice commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing said in a speech Tuesday that 32 launches are scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral facilities in 2017, although some are likely to slip because of technical or other delays.

The launches includes Atlas 5, Delta 4, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches, as well as a Minotaur 4.

The current schedule would far exceed the 23 launches that took place from the Cape last year, the busiest year for launches there in two decades. [Florida Today]


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Weather scrubbed the planned launch last night of an experimental Japanese rocket. The Japanese space agency JAXA said the launch of the SS-520-4 rocket from the Uchinoura Space Center was postponed because of high winds. The next launch attempt is planned for Saturday local time. The SS-520-4 is a sounding rocket converted into an experimental smallsat launcher, and is carrying a single three-kilogram cubesat as its payload. [Spaceflight Now]

The head of NASA’s Earth science division said Tuesday he did not expect major changes to his programs this year despite a change in administrations.Michael Freilich told a NASA Advisory Council subcommittee that the agency’s Earth science programs are proceeding as planned while the government operates under a continuing resolution through April. He added that he did not expect the administration and Congress to make major changes for the rest of the fiscal year, focusing instead on budgets for fiscal year 2018. The future of Earth science research at NASA under the incoming Trump administration has been an area of concern because of statements dating back to the campaign last fall that called for shifting that work to other agencies. [SpaceNews]

A missile warning satellite is on track for launch next week. Air Force officials said Tuesday that the launch of the SBIRS GEO-3 satellite remains on schedule for Jan. 19 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas 5. The launch was planned for last fall but postponed in order to investigate a potential issue with the orbit-raising engine on the satellite, but Air Force officials confirmed that there are no concerns about that engine. A fourth SBIRS satellite is scheduled for launch late this year. [SpaceNews]

The Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane has been in orbit for 600 days, with no sign of coming home. The X-37B launched on its fourth mission in May 2015 and remains in orbit, carrying out a mission that is classified other than some technology demonstrations the Air Force acknowledged at the time of its launch. The previous X-37B mission spent more than 670 days in orbit, the current record for the longest mission. [Space.com]

Two Republican members of Congress from Texas are retaining key committee chairmanships, as expected. The House Appropriations Committee announced Tuesday that Rep. John Culberson will return as chairman of the commerce, justice and science (CJS) subcommittee, which funds NASA and NOAA. The Senate Commerce Committee also announced Tuesday that Sen. Ted Cruz will be back as chairman of its space subcommittee. Democratic leadership has not yet announced who will be the ranking members of those subcommittees; the previous ranking member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), lost reelection in November. [SpacePolicyOnline.com]

Space resources company Deep Space Industries has named a “veteran startup strategist” as its new chief executive. Bill Miller founded and grew one information technology company and was an executive at another before becoming an angel investor in the space industry. The company says it hired Miller to lead rapid growth in the company, which is developing smallsat technologies and has a long-term vision of asteroid mining. [DSI]

Planetary scientists who study Venus are “just trying to hold on” after the latest mission rejections. Two Venus missions were among five finalists for NASA’s Discovery program, but the agency announced last week it was picking two asteroid missions instead. NASA last launched a Venus mission, the Magellan radar mapper, more than 25 years ago. Scientists who study Venus warn of a generation gap as those who worked on Magellan and earlier missions retire. [Ars Technica]

A California museum is getting two “flight-worthy” shuttle-era solid rocket boosters. NASA and Orbital ATK are donating the boosters to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where they will be displayed with the last built-for-flight external tank and the shuttle Endeavour. The museum had originally planned to use a pair of boosters previously on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex that used a mix of real and mock components. The museum sought the authentic boosters in part to ensure structural safety, as it plans to mount Endeavour to the tank and boosters and display them upright, in launch configuration. [collectSPACE]

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Cape Canaveral could see 30 launches this year, space official says

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