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Judge allows suit against Arizona high-altitude balloon “spaceport” to proceed

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An Arizona judge ruled Monday that a suit involving a high-altitude balloon “spaceport” can proceed.

The judge denied a motion by lawyers for Pima County, Arizona, to dismiss a suit filed by the Goldwater Institute against the county for a deal it made early this year to build a new headquarters and launch site for World View in Tucson. The institute, a conservative think tank, argued the $15 million deal violated local and state laws as well as the state constitution’s “gift clause.” [Arizona Daily Star]


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An experimental satellite is expected to be the next U.S. Air Force payload that SpaceX and United Launch Alliance will compete to launch. The Air Force issued a draft solicitation last Friday for the launch of the Space Test Program Satellite (STPSat) 6 mission in late 2018. STPSat-6 features an Orbital ATK bus with eight payloads, including a nuclear detonation sensor and a laser communications experiment from NASA. STPSat-6 will likely be the third mission the Air Force will seek bids to launch, after two GPS 3 satellites. [SpaceNews]

NASA said Monday it has regained contact with a space science satellite that had been silent for nearly two years. NASA said the Deep Space Network received a signal from the STEREO-B spacecraft late Sunday, although that initial contact provided few details about the condition of the spacecraft. NASA last heard from STEREO-B in October 2014, when the spacecraft’s inertial measurement unit malfunctioned after a reboot of the spacecraft’s systems, apparently causing the spacecraft to spin up and lose power and communications. Efforts to recover the spacecraft, launched in 2006, had to wait until after the spacecraft emerged from behind the sun as seen from Earth. Its twin spacecraft, STEREO-A, continues to work normally. [SpaceNews]

DARPA plans to establish a consortium of organizations to address satellite servicing issues. Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said at a finance conference last week that the Consortium For Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations, or CONFERS, would bring together companies, insurers and others to discuss standards and best practices for future satellite servicing efforts. Tousley said the goal of CONFERS would be to ensure there are no regulatory or other roadblocks to satellite servicing ventures. [SpaceNews]

An Ariane 5 is set to launch a pair of Intelsat satellites tomorrow. Managers approved plans Monday to launch the Ariane 5 at 5:55 p.m. Eastern Wednesday from Kourou, French Guiana. The Ariane 5 will launch the Boeing-built Intelsat 33e and Space Systems Loral-built Intelsat 36 communications satellites. [Spaceflight Now]

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Russia is developing a new cargo spacecraft to replace the venerable Progress vehicle. The unnamed vehicle would be able to carry more cargo than the Progress, allowing Russia to reduce the number of ISS cargo flights a year from four to three. The vehicle makes use of some existing systems, but is unlikely to enter service before 2020. Its development comes as Roscosmos considers reducing the size of its crew on the ISS from three to two, perhaps as soon as next year. [Popular Mechanics]

A weather satellite scheduled for launch late this year arrived at Cape Canaveral Monday. A C-5 cargo aircraft ferried the Lockheed Martin-built GOES-R satellite from its Colorado factory to the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. GOES-R, the first of a new generation of geostationary weather satellites, is scheduled for launch in early November on at Atlas 5. [Florida Today]

Streaks on Mars linked to flowing water might not have much water at all. NASA announced last year the discovery of dark streaks, called recurring slope lineae, that scientists argued were formed by liquid water intermittently flowing near the surface of the red planet. A new study, though, found no temperature difference between the streaks and surrounding terrain, which would be expected if they were formed by water. The streaks may be no more than “mildly damp, slightly salty dirt,” and might not contain any water at all. [Washington Post]

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Judge allows suit against Arizona high-altitude balloon “spaceport” to proceed

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