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NASA test fires former shuttle engine for 420 seconds

Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 engine fires for 420 seconds at NASA's Stennis Space Center. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

NASA put a former shuttle engine through its paces Thursday in a test tied to the development of the Space Launch System.

The RS-25 engine, formerly used on the space shuttle, fired for 420 seconds during a test at the Stennis Space Center, running at between 80 and 111 percent of its rated thrust.

NASA is repurposing the shuttle-era engines for use on the core stage of the SLS, which will use four RS-25 engines on each launch. [NASASpaceFlight.com]


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A Delta 4 successfully launched two space surveillance satellites overnight. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (4,2) rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 12:52 a.m. Eastern carrying the second pair of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites. The Air Force later declared the launch a success. The two satellites will join two others launched in 2014 to monitor objects in geostationary orbit. [SpaceNews]

One of the first two GSSAP satellites was recently called on to check on a U.S. Navy satellite experiencing problems after launch. The Air Force revealed Thursday that it used the GSSAP spacecraft to take images of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) 5 satellite, which has experienced problems raising its orbit to the geostationary belt after launch. Neither the Air Force nor the Naxy disclosed what information, if any, the images provided to diagnose the problem with MUOS-5. [SpaceNews]

The U.S. Army is looking for sensors and other technologies for its small satellite program. In a presentation Thursday at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, Julie Schumacher, deputy to the commander of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, said the Army is interested in imaging sensors, laser communications and other electronics that it can use in smallsats. The Army’s smallsat efforts include Kestrel Eye, an imaging smallsat that will launch from the ISS late this year or early next year. [SpaceNews]

AsiaSat reported flat revenues and profits in the first half of 2016. The company’s revenue of $82.5 million and net profit of $32.1 million were unchanged from the first half of 2015, although the net profit was boosted by a one-time tax credit. The satellite operator said it expects to see growth in the future as demand for high-definition television in China increases. [SpaceNews]

RSC Energia and Boeing have reportedly reached an agreement over a long-running dispute regarding Sea Launch. Vladmir Solntsev, head of Energia, told the Russian publication Izvestia that the companies had worked out a preliminary settlement regarding several hundred million dollars Boeing said it was owed by Energia over the joint venture. The report offered few details about the settlement, but said that the two companies would develop “a program of long-term cooperation” in space exploration. Boeing, which had been pursuing a judgment against Energia in U.S. federal courts, did not confirm the deal. [Sputnik]

The smallsat industry expects demand for cubesats to grow despite concerns about launch access and reliability. At last week’s Conference on Small Satellites in Utah, SpaceWorks said it was maintaining a forecast issued earlier this year that about 200 satellites weighing 1-50 kilograms would launch in 2016. To date, only 53 such satellites have launched, but upcoming missions should help reach that predicted number. That forecast also projected up to 3,000 such spacecraft would be built to launch through the early 2020s. Reliability continues to be an issue for cubesats, though, particularly for those built by university programs. [SpaceNews]

Chinese engineers have received the first data from an experimental quantum communications satellite launched earlier this week. The satellite, launched Monday and named Micius after launch, transmitted 202 megabytes of data to a ground station in China. It wasn’t immediately clear if the satellite used the quantum technologies, which promise “hack-proof” encrypted communications, in that initial transmission. [Xinhua]

The British military has ordered another “pseudo sat” from Airbus. The Ministry of Defence said this week it was exercising an option for a third Zephyr-S solar-powered high-altitude aircraft from Airbus. The planes, designed to fly at altitudes of about 20 kilometers for 45 days, will be used by the British military in upcoming tests to determine “how best to provide next-generation battlefield intelligence” for its forces. [SpaceNews]

A new version of the SM-3 missile will undergo its first intercept test in October. The SM-3 Block 2A, jointly developed by the U.S. and Japan, is larger than the Block 1A and 1B versions and is designed to operate from land or on ships. The Missile Defense Agency, meanwhile, has identified three sites in Michigan, New York and Ohio that could serve as an East Coast interceptor site. [SpaceNews]

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NASA test fires former shuttle engine for 420 seconds

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