A bipartisan group of 20 House members has asked the Defense Department not to alter the U.S. Air Force’s plans to fund development of new launch systems.

The Italian space agency ASI said it will launch one of two next-generation Cosmo-Skymed radar satellites on a Soyuz from French Guiana, co-manifested with ESA’s Cheops exoplanet satellite.

That launch is scheduled for late 2018. ASI had considered launching the satellite on a Falcon 9 before choosing the Soyuz.

A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:02 a.m. Eastern carrying the Shijian-13 satellite.

The spacecraft, also known as ChinaSat-16, will test Ka-band communications and other spacecraft technologies, including electric propulsion, from geostationary orbit.

Space Systems Loral announced April 12 that it has completed an agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for a satellite servicing program that triggered a lawsuit from another company.

The announcement of the agreement for the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program came a day after DARPA filed a motion in federal court to dismiss a February lawsuit filed by Orbital ATK about the award to SSL.

A report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) April 13 concluded that the first two missions of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft will likely slip from their currently scheduled dates.

The report on NASA’s human exploration programs, the outcome of a nine-month audit by OIG, also recommended that NASA provide more details about its long-term plans to send humans to Mars, citing constrained budgets and the need to develop a number of key technologies to enable such missions.

NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA will start work this spring on an orbiting X-ray astronomy telescope to replace one lost shortly after launch last year. In a presentation to the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Academies March 28, Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said a formal start of the project known as the X-Ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (XARM) will take place shortly after the start of the new Japanese fiscal year April 1.

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