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Weather delays launch of spy satellite aboard Delta 4 Heavy

A ULA Delta 4 Heavy launch of a satellite for the NRO was delayed after poor weather conditions Thursday. Credit: NASA

Weather delayed Thursday’s planned launch of a spy satellite on a Delta 4 Heavy.

Poor weather conditions, including clouds and rain, failed to improve during a four-hour launch window, forcing the launch scrub.

The next launch attempt is planned for Saturday at 1:51 p.m. Eastern.

The launch, on a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office designated NROL-37, carries what observers believe to be a signals intelligence satellite. [Orlando Sentinel]


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A Proton rocket successfully placed an Intelsat satellite into orbit Thursday despite an issue with the rocket. The Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage released the Intelsat 31 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit late Thursday, more than 15 hours after liftoff from Baikonur. However, during the launch one lower stage engine shut down prematurely, causing it to underperform, although the Breeze-M was able to compensate during its series of burns. The launch was the first for the latest upgrade to the Proton, incorporating lighter-weight, but stronger, metallic structures and high-precision tooling that gives the vehicle an additional 150 kilograms of payload capacity for geostationary orbit missions. [SpaceNews]

NASA is exploring the possibility of flying payloads on SpaceX’s Red Dragon Mars spacecraft or a follow-up mission. Officials in NASA’s space technology and planetary sciences program say they are open to additional cooperation with SpaceX on that mission beyond the technical support they are providing in exchange for data on the spacecraft’s landing attempt. Because the launch window for Red Dragon’s 2018 mission opens in less than 24 months, it may not be possible to get a payload ready in time for that flight, but additional opportunities may become available in launch windows in 2020 and beyond. [SpaceNews]

Senators debated RD-180 engine restrictions on Thursday. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) made the case for allowing United Launch Alliance to continue to purchase RD-180 engines from Russia for its Atlas 5 rocket through 2022, arguing that an earlier cutoff would jeopardize national security. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended ending use of the RD-180 engine, criticizing ULA on the Senate floor and calling the issue “one of the most unsavory issues that I’ve been involved with” while in the Senate. Debate on the overall bill, which may include an amendment by Nelson to extend RD-180 use, continues today. [Florida Today]

The Aerospace Industries Association met with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Thursday. In a statement, AIA President and CEO David Melcher said the meeting was an opportunity “to brief Mr. Trump on issues of importance to our industry,” including space, but didn’t disclose the meeting’s outcome or any comments by Trump. The statement added AIA is working to arrange a similar briefing with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. [AIA]

SpaceX is a “giant wake-up call” for Europe’s space industry, one official says.“Six to nine months ago many in Europe thought Elon Musk was just hot air, even among the big shots in the space industry,” Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of the French space agency CNES, said. But the company’s repeated success in landing first stages, with eventual plans to reuse them, has changed minds on the continent. “He’s clearly shaking things up,” Le Gall said, forcing Europe to take a harder look at developing its own reusable launch systems. [Bloomberg]

But in the U.S., SpaceX’s disruptive star has dimmed. CNBC’s “Disruptor 50” company ranking dropped SpaceX to number 30 after being in the top two the previous two years. CNBC argued that SpaceX is facing new competitive pressure from companies like ULA and Blue Origin, and also has to demonstrate that it can carry out a full manifest of launches without suffering failures like last June’s Falcon 9 launch failure. “But as is often the case with companies that operate at the very edge of what’s possible, SpaceX’s descent from the top of our list is linked largely to expectations,” the network concluded. “The company that rewrote the rules for the commercial space industry now has no one left to disrupt but itself.” [CNBC]

Weather forecasting may benefit from a decadal survey like that used in the Earth and space sciences. At a House hearing this week on use of private weather data, Tony Busalacchi, Jr., the incoming president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, said such a survey would include how data from private systems, like commercial weather satellites, could improve weather forecasting. The hearing included Spire, one of several companies seeking to sell GPS radio occultation weather data to NOAA as part of a pilot commercial satellite weather data program. [SpacePolicyOnline.com]

The Aerospace Industries Association met with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Thursday. In a statement, AIA President and CEO David Melcher said the meeting was an opportunity “to brief Mr. Trump on issues of importance to our industry,” including space, but didn’t disclose the meeting’s outcome or any comments by Trump. The statement added AIA is working to arrange a similar briefing with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. [AIA]
SpaceX is a “giant wake-up call” for Europe’s space industry, one official says.“Six to nine months ago many in Europe thought Elon Musk was just hot air, even among the big shots in the space industry,” Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of the French space agency CNES, said. But the company’s repeated success in landing first stages, with eventual plans to reuse them, has changed minds on the continent. “He’s clearly shaking things up,” Le Gall said, forcing Europe to take a harder look at developing its own reusable launch systems. [Bloomberg]

But in the U.S., SpaceX’s disruptive star has dimmed. CNBC’s “Disruptor 50” company ranking dropped SpaceX to number 30 after being in the top two the previous two years. CNBC argued that SpaceX is facing new competitive pressure from companies like ULA and Blue Origin, and also has to demonstrate that it can carry out a full manifest of launches without suffering failures like last June’s Falcon 9 launch failure. “But as is often the case with companies that operate at the very edge of what’s possible, SpaceX’s descent from the top of our list is linked largely to expectations,” the network concluded. “The company that rewrote the rules for the commercial space industry now has no one left to disrupt but itself.” [CNBC]

Weather forecasting may benefit from a decadal survey like that used in the Earth and space sciences. At a House hearing this week on use of private weather data, Tony Busalacchi, Jr., the incoming president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, said such a survey would include how data from private systems, like commercial weather satellites, could improve weather forecasting. The hearing included Spire, one of several companies seeking to sell GPS radio occultation weather data to NOAA as part of a pilot commercial satellite weather data program. [SpacePolicyOnline.com]

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Weather delays launch of spy satellite aboard Delta 4 Heavy

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