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McCain, McCarthy to introduce bill to reinstate RD-180 ban

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Credit: U.S. House/Justin LoFranco

Two leading members of Congress plan to introduce legislation today to reinstate a ban on RD-180 engines.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will introduce a bill that repeals a provision in the 2016 omnibus spending bill allowing continued purchases of RD-180 engines for national security missions.

McCain was openly critical last month of the omnibus language, which overturned a ban included in the defense authorization bill.

McCain’s committee is holding a hearing this morning on the use of Russian-built engines for national security launches. [AP]


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Two companies that failed to win NASA commercial cargo contracts earlier this month don’t plan to protest the awards. Representatives of Boeing and Lockheed Martin said this week that they have decided not to file protests with the GAO over the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) competition. NASA awarded contracts Jan. 14 to Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX. NASA has yet to publish the source selection statement that describes its evaluation of the CRS-2 proposals it received and the agency’s rationale for choosing the winning companies. [SpaceNews]

The creation of a French joint venture that will lead work on the Ariane 6 is being delayed because of a tax issue. Airbus Space Systems chief Francois Auque said Tuesday its joint venture with Safran, Airbus Safran Launchers, is on hold while the companies await a ruling from French tax officials on a cash payment by Safran to Airbus. That, in turn, has delayed implementation of the joint venture and its work on the Ariane 6. Airbus separately announced Tuesday a joint venture with OneWeb, called OneWeb Satellites, that will be responsible for the manufacturing of 900 satellites for OneWeb’s low Earth orbit broadband constellation. The first ten satellites will be built at an Airbus facility in France, with the rest at one to be built in the U.S., likely in Florida. [SpaceNews]

United Launch Alliance has delayed its next Atlas 5 launch by at least a day. ULA said Tuesday it was postponing the Atlas 5 launch of a GPS satellite, previously scheduled for Feb. 3 from Cape Canaveral, to no earlier than Feb. 4. The company said it was evaluating “concerns over the integrity of electrical connectors” on the rocket. The rocket will carry the last of the Block 2F GPS satellites. [Florida Today]

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Two more companies have received rocket technology study contracts from the Air Force. ASRC and Boeing won contracts valued at $3.6 million and $6.1 million, respectively, for unspecified rocket technology research. The Air Force has now awarded nine contracts with a combined value of $26 million for the effort; the service previously said it planned to award six to eight contracts with a combined value of up to $35 million. [SpaceNews]

Lockheed Martin’s space division reported lower sales but flat profits in 2015. The company, in its fourth quarter and full year financial statement released Tuesday, said its Space Systems division recorded an operating profit of $1.17 billion on $9.1 billion in net sales in 2015. The same division had a profit of $1.19 billion on $9.2 billion in sales in 2014. Lockheed said lower volume on government satellite programs was the primary reason for the overall decline in sales. The company also noted “performance matters” on some commercial programs cut into profits, but were largely offset by improvements in government programs. Lockheed reported total equity earnings, primarily from its stake in ULA, of $245 million in 2015, compared to $280 million in 2014. [Lockheed Martin]

Airbus has signed a contract with ESA for two more Sentinel satellites. The contract, valued at 285 million euros ($310 million), covers the construction of the Sentinel-2C and Sentinel-2D Earth observation satellites. Airbus was expected to get the contract based on its work on similar Sentinel spacecraft. The spacecraft will be built for launch in the early 2020s. [Airbus Defence and Space]

The Isle of Man is turning to an industry group to help craft a space policy. The local chapter of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) surveyed its members at the request of the Manx government about policy issues at the end of last year as a step towards the development of a government space policy. The Isle of Man, a self-governing dependent territory of Great Britain, has attracted space companies and organizations in recent years in part because of its favorable tax policies. [isleofman.com]

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McCain, McCarthy to introduce bill to reinstate RD-180 ban

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