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SpaceX targets July for next land landing

The Falcon 9 first stage at Cape Canaveral's LZ1 following its successful  Dec. 22  return to the launch site. Credit: SpaceX

A July launch of a space station cargo mission will be SpaceX’s next opportunity to land a Falcon 9 on land.

NASA announced Monday it is scheduling the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission to the station for no earlier than July 16.

SpaceX later confirmed that it will attempt to land the first stage back at Cape Canaveral on that mission, its first land landing attempt since the Orbcomm launch in December.

Space station cargo missions have sufficient excess performance to enable land landings, unlike launches of geostationary satellites that require landings at sea. [The Verge]


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A Soyuz rocket lifted off early this morning carrying two Galileo navigation satellites. The Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana on schedule at 4:48 a.m. Eastern carrying the 13th and 14th Galileo spacecraft. The Fregat upper stage will deploy the satellites into their planned orbit nearly four hours after liftoff. The launch brings the number of Galileo spacecraft in orbit to 14. [NASASpaceFlight.com]

Planetary science wins, but Earth science and the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) lose in a House spending bill to be marked up today. The House Appropriations Committee released the draft report accompanying its commerce, justice and science spending bill that the committee will take up this morning. The report increases funding for planetary science by $327 million above NASA’s request, including work on a Europa orbiter and lander as well as other programs, like Discovery missions. However, Earth science is cut by a similar amount, and the report provides no funds to support ARM. [SpaceNews]

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says other nations are still interested in cooperating with NASA despite uncertainty regarding the upcoming election. Bolden said current and potential partners are “concerned” about changes that could come when the next administration takes office, but added such concerns are common during transitions, and is not specific to the current presidential campaign. Bolden said he plans on making a number of trips this summer to support international cooperation, including a visit to China that may include an agreement on aeronautics, but not space, cooperation. [SpaceNews]

Europe is starting construction of flight hardware for the first Orion service module even before completing a critical design review. A ceremony last week in Germany marked the beginning of assembly of that first European Service Module, even though the critical design review for the module won’t take place until mid-June. ESA and NASA have started discussions about a deal to build a second module, a barter agreement linked to a pending decision by ESA about whether to extend its presence on the International Space Station through 2024. [SpaceNews]

Iridium says it satellite constellation can serve as an alternative to GPS. The company announced Monday its Satellite Time and Location service, which provides navigation and timing services using its existing constellation of low Earth orbit satellites. Iridium is billing the service not as a replacement for GPS or other navigation systems, but as a backup should those signals be jammed or otherwise unavailable. [Reuters]

A former Microsoft executive is taking issue with the approach NASA is taking to detect and characterize near Earth asteroids. Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technologist, argues in a recently submitted paper that analysis of data from NASA’s NEOWISE project is “all basically wrong,” miscalculating the albedos and thus the sizes of asteroids it detects. He also argues that a proposed follow-on mission, NEOCam, is unnecessary, since a groundbased telescope under construction, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, could detect most of them. NASA scientists defended both their analysis of NEOWISE data and need for NEOCam, one of five finalists for the next Discovery mission. [New York Times]

The state of Hawaii is still pursuing a spaceport license for a commercial airport. State officials say an environmental assessment of a spaceport at Kona International Airport, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is still in progress, and should be done by late summer. If granted a license, the spaceport could host flights of suborbital spaceplanes for space tourism, although so far no companies with vehicles under development have committed to flying from Kona. [West Hawaii Today]

Powerful “superflares” early in the sun’s history could have helped life form on Earth. Analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler mission suggests that young stars could generate as many as 10 superflares a day, versus the one a century the sun currently produces. Those flares could have helped warm the Earth enough to support life at a time when the sun itself was only about 70 percent as bright as it is today, overcoming what is known as the “faint young sun paradox.” [SPACE.com]

The Columbus, Ohio, airport could soon be renamed for John Glenn, the former astronaut and U.S. senator. The Ohio Legislature is considering adding language to a license plate bill that would rename Port Columbus International Airport the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The proposal has the support of both the speaker of the Ohio House and the mayor of Columbus. [Columbus Dispatch]

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SpaceX targets July for next land landing

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