February 2-8, 2015

NASA FY2016 Budget Request, close end of Dnepr and Zenit space launches programs, launch of 4th Iranian satellite, and many more in our weekly space digest!

Our's of the Week

Last week there was no much activity in publishing new articles by us. The only one we issued is the previous Weekly Space Digest for January 26 — February 1, 2015. Instead, we tweeted some interesting news, among which are the launch of 4th Iranian satellite, start of Paris Space Week conference, and consideration to replace Zenit rocket with another one by Sea Launch's executive.

News of the Week

NASA FY2016 Budget Request

On February 2 President Barack Obama submitted to Congress his FY2016 budget request that included $18.53Bln for NASA, a 2.9% ($519Mln) increase over the FY2015 appropriated level, which itself was a half-billion increase over the President's request for FY2015. That increase is spread across most NASA's programs except for aeronautics and education. The new budgetincludes “immediate initiation” of a new Landsat 9 spacecraft and a formal start of a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, but could result in the termination of two planetary science missions: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

The budget proposal provides a significant, more than 50% increase to NASA's commercial crew program (CCP) from $805Mln it recieved in 2015 to $1.244Bln it is seeking for 2016. Next year would also be the peak year of CCP projected costs, with spending dropping to $1.18Bln in 2017 and below $1Bln in 2018. NASA's Orion and Space Launch System (SLS) programs would, by contrast, lose money compared to 2015. NASA is seeking $1.096Bln for Orion (nearly $100Mln less than appropriated for 2015), and only $1.357Bln for SLS in the 2016 request (down from $1.7Bln in 2015).

NASA aims to restore a cut in its space technology program in 2016, asking for nearly $725Mln after receiving $596Mln in 2015. That would be offset in part by a cut to NASA's Aeronautics program, which received $651Mln in 2015, and Education program ($119Mln in 2015), but for which NASA is requesting only $571Mln and $88.9Mln, respectively, in 2016.

As part of the 2016 budget request, NASA is seeking some $85Mln for SOFIA, which would more than fully restore the roughly 20% cut the mission absorbed in 2015 as part of the omnibus spending bill signed in December (when Congress refused to go along with the White House's plan to ground the mission). SOFIA, which cost about $1Bln to build, is a US-German collaboration that features a 2.5-meter infrared telescope mounted aboard a modified Boeing 747.

As it was mentioned, FY2016 budget proposal includes $30Mln for a mission to Europa, a large icy moon of Jupiter believed to have subterranean oceans of liquid water that potentially could harbor life. That mission, currently in a “pre-formulation” phase, will pass a development milestone called Key Decision Point A this spring and enter Phase A, a concept and technology development stage.

The budget proposal says little about the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), NASA's proposal to shift the orbit of a small asteroid into one around the Moon to be visited by astronauts. FY2016 budget request includes $220Mln for the “Asteroid Initiative”, of which ARM is part, and is spreading among the science, human exploration and operations, and space technology mission directorates. Below is the table with NASA FY2016 Budgest Request.

Other News


  • Throughout the week several Russian officials made statements on the cancellation of Sea Launch and Dnepr programs that use Ukraine-made rockets. Thus, Sea Launch CEO Sergey Gugkaev said the company is considering replacement of Zenit, while Russian government thinks what to do with the project in a whole. Igor Burenkov from Roscosmos alreadystated that satellites supposed to be launched by Zenit will be deployed by Angara launchers. However, very likely we'll see at least two Zenit launches in future since there are some stocks of them in Russia (missions to launch Elektro-L, Lybid spacecraft). Roscosmos alsodeclared suspension of Dnepr program and consideration about its future. Nevertheless, this will happen only after 3 Dnepr launchesscheduled and promised for international customers for 2015.
  • On February 2 Iran launched Safir rocket carrying nation's 4th satellite Fajr. It is reported that this Earth observation spacecraft was launched to celebrate the anniversaly of Islamic Revolution.
  • China intensively works on its launch vehicles program, planning to develop super-heavy Long March-9 rocket for long-term deep space missions, and aiming to conduct in 2016 first flight tests of Long March-7 vehicle, first one in the family that will use non-toxic propellant components, at newly constructed Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.
  • Arianespace has prepared Vega launcher for February 11 lift-off with the European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spaceplane in a 100-minutes one-of-a-kind European mission.
  • It has become clear the payload that United Launch Alliance (ULA) will deploy under the recent $383Mln extension to the Block Buy contract with the US Air Force. Thus, Delta IV rocket will deliver to its orbital position Wideband Global SATCOM satellite from Cape Canaveral, and two Atlas V rockets will deploy the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-79 and the US Navy's MUOS missions from Vandenberg and Canaveral, respectively.
  • SpaceX couldn't launch Falcon 9 rocket carrying Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft on February 8 due to a pair oftechnical problems, one with the launch vehicle and the other with the range, and will try to do that on Tuesday, February 10.


  • ISS Reshetnev Begins Construction of Millimetron Space Telescope — viaViaSatellite.
  • Pentagon Proposes Accelerated Schedule for SBSS Follow-on Satellites — via SpaceNews.
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne to Provide Electric Propulsion for Orbital Sciences Corporation's GEOStar-3 Satellites — via SpaceRef.
  • Intelsat officially decommissioned Intelsat 603 satellite that became famous after having been rescued by spacewalking astronauts after being launched into a bad orbit by a commercial Titan 3 launcher in 1990. NASA came to the rescue two years later in a four-day space shuttle mission that succeeded in capturing the wayward satellite and attaching a new kick motor that enabled it to reach its operating position in geostationary orbit. It was the first launch of NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavor and the first rescue of an on-orbit satellite.
  • The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to begin work next year on an interim satellite that would launch in 2019 to avert a gap in weather coverage from polar orbit — via SpaceNews.
  • Intelsat and Kymeta Join Forces to Enable Next Generation Satellite Applications — press release.
  • Turkey's Gokturk-1 high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite remains stuck, largely completed, in Thales Alenia Space's Cannes, France, facility because of last-minute issues between the Turkish government and the satellite's contractor — via SpaceNews.
  • NASA Announces University CubeSat Space Mission Candidates.
  • PlanetiQ Plans First Commercial Weather Satellite Constellation — via Parabolic Arc.

New Tech & Tests

  • DARPA's Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program is getting closer to delivering 'big things in small packages to space'.
  • Moon Express Continues Lander Flight Tests Under NASA Lunar CATALYST Program — via SpaceRef.
  • China Official: Beidou Gear Will Receive GPS, Glonass, Galileo Signals — via SpaceNews.
  • Asteroid Miners May Get Help from Metal-Munching Microbes — via

Deep Space

  • China eyes second place for number of interplanetary missions after 2020 — via TASS agency.



  • US and Germany Sign Space Surveillance Pact — via SpaceNews.
  • Japan Boosts Space Spending In Support of Security Focus and new “Basic Plan on Space Policy” — JAXA.
  • The FAA: regulating business on the moon — via Reuters.
  • The Canadian Space Agency Solicits Proposals for a Canada-Israel Space Mission — via SpaceRef.
  • Estonia to become ESA's 21st member state.
  • UAE Space Agency Conducts Outreach to Europe — via Parabolic Arc.
  • US Air Force poised to award $200M in Rocket Studies — via SpaceNews.

Next digest February 9-15, 2015 Previous digest January 26 - February 1