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Instrument Leak Raises Concerns about Mars InSight’s March Launch

NASA’s InSight Mars lander is being assembled at Lockheed Martin Space Systems' Denver facility. The InSight mission, scheduled to launch in March 2016, will record the first-ever measurements of the interior of the red planet, giving scientists insight into the evolution of Mars and other terrestrial planets (Lockheed photo).

A problem with a key instrument for NASA’s Mars InSight mission raises concerns about its March launch date.

JPL confirmed reports Thursday that a vacuum-sealed sphere that holds three seismometers has suffered a leak that would degrade the instruments’ performance.

The French space agency CNES, which is providing the seismometers, is working to repair the leak before shipping the instrument to California to be integrated onto the spacecraft.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California during a window that lasts most of March, and JPL said they remain committed to launching InSight during that window. [Nature]


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Weather grounded Thursday’s scheduled launch of a Cygnus cargo mission to the ISS, and today’s forecast isn’t favorable, either. Clouds and rain at Cape Canaveral scrubbed the launch of an Atlas 5 carrying the Cygnus late Thursday. The launch has been rescheduled for a 30-minute window that opens at 5:33 p.m. Eastern today, but forecasts call for only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch time, with the weekend forecast also unsettled. The Cygnus, flying for the first time since an October 2014 Antares launch failure, is carrying 3,500 kilograms of cargo for the station. [SpaceNews]

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The White House and members of Congress are discussing ways to hand over space traffic management responsibilities to the FAA. That work is currently handed by the Joint Space Operations Center, but concerns about an increasing number of satellites and flat budgets for the center have triggered a new round of discussions about moving that work to another agency. The most likely one to take on space traffic management work would be the FAA, and an upcoming FAA reauthorization bill might be used to handle that change. [SpaceNews]

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A Japanese spacecraft bound for an asteroid flew past Earth Thursday. Hayabusa 2, launched a year ago, made the gravity assist flyby at about 5 a.m. Eastern Thursday, passing 3,090 kilometers above the Pacific. The flyby puts the spacecraft on course to reach the near Earth asteroid Ryugu in mid-2018, where it will collect samples for return to Earth in 2020. [AFP]

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Source: Space News

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Instrument Leak Raises Concerns about Mars InSight’s March Launch

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