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China unveils the design of its 2020 Mars lander and rover

China Mars rover

China unveiled the design of its 2020 Mars lander and rover Tuesday.

The mission, planned to launch in mid-2020 on a Long March 5, will initially go into orbit around Mars before deploying a lander that will touch down in the low latitudes of the northern hemisphere of Mars, although officials didn’t identify a specific landing site. The lander’s rover, superficially similar in appearance to NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity spacecraft, will carry a number of instruments, ranging from cameras to a ground-penetrating radar. [Reuters]


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Iridium is counting on a launch next month to help fill holes that are developing in its satellite constellation. Company CEO Matt Desch said this week failures of satellites in its initial constellation have created two small gaps in service near the Equator, causing brief “signal disruptions” for users there. Those gaps have not caused any customer complaints, but concerns about additional satellite failures are creating additional pressure to start launching its next-generation satellites. The first group of 10 satellites is scheduled to launch in the latter half of September on a SpaceX Falcon 9, with six more to follow through the end of 2017. [Wall Street Journal]

NASA’s dispute with the company that manages many of its computer systems has taken an almost unprecedented turn. Renee Wynn, NASA’s chief information officer, declined to sign off recently on an “authority to operate” for the Agency Consolidated End-user Services contract held by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a contract that covers most of the personal computer hardware and software for the agency. NASA has reportedly been critical of a lack of progress by Hewlett Packard in fixing vulnerabilities in its computer systems. [Federal News Radio]

A new version of Japan’s space station cargo resupply mission will be able to perform other missions as well. The HTV-X spacecraft will include a detachable service module that can carry cameras and other instruments for applications such as Earth observation or space debris monitoring. The HTV-X could also incorporate return capsules to return cargo to Earth. The first flight of the HTV-X is planned for 2021. [Yomiuri Shimbun]

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The future of a proposed spaceport in Georgia may depend on state legislators passing liability legislation. The state’s House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this year shielding companies operating out of spaceports in the state from civil suits, similar to laws in several other states, but the bill died in the Georgia Senate. Backers of the spaceport said at a hearing this week that the bill is needed to make a proposed launch site on the Atlantic coast in Camden County competitive with launch sites in other states. [Atlanta Business Chronicle]

Local officials have approved infrastructure improvements for a business park adjacent to a Texas spaceport. The Midland Spaceport Development Corp. board voted Tuesday to spend $2.4 million for roads, utilities and other infrastructure for the Spaceport Business Park, located next to Midland International Air and Space Port in Midland, Texas. City officials hope the business park attracts aerospace companies that will use, or do business with companies that use, the spaceport. [Midland Reporter-Telegram]

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams will set a spaceflight endurance record today. Williams, currently on this third long-duration expedition on the International Space Station, will break Scott Kelly’s NASA record of 520 cumulative days in space later today. Williams’ total will reach 534 days before he returns to Earth Sept. 6. That NASA record is still far short of the world record of 879 total days in space held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. [Ars Technica]

Another veteran astronaut left the agency Tuesday. Terry Virts spent 213 days in space on one shuttle and one ISS expedition, including 19 hours outside the station on three spacewalks. NASA did not announce what Virts would be doing after leaving the agency. [NASA/JSC]

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China unveils the design of its 2020 Mars lander and rover

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