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SpaceX hopes to launch reused Falcon 9 in the fall

Falcon 9 Thaicom-8 launch

SpaceX is now looking to make the first launch of a reused Falcon 9 this fall.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday that the company was planning the first reflight of a recovered first stage in September or October.

That date is slightly later than what he mentioned at a conference last week, where he said that flight was planned to take place in two or three months. The company has not disclosed who would be the customer of that launch. [Los Angeles Times]


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The Proton launch of an Intelsat satellite has been postponed 24 hours. The Proton was scheduled to lift off at 3:10 a.m. Eastern this morning and place the Intelsat 31 spacecraft into orbit, but the launch was scrubbed because of problems with electrical system ground equipment, according to an International Launch Services statement. Technicians are replacing the faulty equipment, and the launch is now scheduled for the same time Thursday. [ILS]

The White House is critical of military space provisions in a Senate defense bill.The White House issued a veto threat Tuesday of the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, in part due to language restricting the number of RD-180 engines. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) announced Tuesday he was filing an amendment that would lift that engine restriction and allow the use of the RD-180 through 2022. The White House statement about the bill also criticized language in the bill limiting funding for the OCX ground system for the next-generation GPS satellites and requiring increased oversight of NRO programs. [SpaceNews]

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, wants more information about RD-180 payments to Russia. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) filed an amendment to the defense authorization bill requiring the Treasury Department to certify that payments for RD-180 engines used for Atlas 5 launches for the Air Force do not violate sanctions. McCain has previously argued that Russian officials subject to sanctions, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, benefit from RD-180 purchases given their roles overseeing the Russian space industry. [SpaceNews]

A former astronaut is facing murder charges after a fatal car crash in Alabama.James Halsell Jr. was arrested after his car crashed into another on a highway east of Tuscaloosa in the early morning hours Monday, killing two girls. Police reports stated that alcohol and speed may have been factors in the crash. Halsell joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1990 and flew on five shuttle missions between 1994 and 2000. He retired in 2006 and later worked for ATK and Dynetics, but was not employed by either company at the time of the accident. [AL.com]

Initial results from ESA’s LISA Pathfinder make a full-scale gravitational wave mission more likely. ESA scientists involved in the technology demonstration mission announced Tuesday that the performance of the spacecraft, launched earlier this year, far surpassed expectations. LISA Pathfinder is designed to test technologies needed for a much larger space-based laser interferometer that could be used to detect gravitational waves. The results make it more like ESA will pursue such a mission, with NASA cooperation, although it is unlikely to fly before 2034. [SpaceNews]

NASA will reduce the funding available for astrophysics research grants this year to make up for a shortfall in the overall program. Paul Hertz, head of NASA’s astrophysics division, said at a committee meeting this week that funding for astrophysics research will be reduced by $3 million, or about three percent, to help make up for a $36 million shortfall created when Congress increased funding for other programs in the division, notably the WFIRST mission. Other savings will come from freeing up or rephasing project reserves, making the research cut the one “real impact” of the reductions to the astronomy community. [SpaceNews]

Satellite operators are surprised and concerned about a proposed Indian satellite television policy. That proposal, published last month, would consolidate all satellite TV broadcasts onto a couple of satellites owned by the Indian government. Operators of commercial satellites that do business in India are concerned that the policy would deprive them of business if it goes forward, but believes that various obstacles, such as the cost of having to repoint millions of consumer dishes, will kill the proposal. [SpaceNews]

Orbital ATK has named the next Cygnus mission after the late astronaut Alan Poindexter. The Cygnus is scheduled for launch on a re-engined Antares some time in July, pending the outcome of analysis from a static fire test last week, company executives said at a media event Tuesday at NASA Wallops. Poindexter was a NASA astronaut who flew on two shuttle missions; he died in an accident in 2012. [Daily Press]

The launch director for Challenger’s final flight has passed away. Gene Thomas joined NASA in 1962 and served as launch director for five shuttle missions in 1985 and 1986, including the fatal flight of Challenger on STS-51L. He later worked at the Kennedy Space Center as director of safety and as the center’s deputy director before retiring in 1997. [Florida Today]

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SpaceX hopes to launch reused Falcon 9 in the fall

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