The Long March 7 rocket that will launch the Tianzhou-1 spacecraft arrived last week at the Wenchang launch site for a launch planned for the latter half of April.
Tianzhou-1 will dock with the uncrewed Tiangong-2 module currently in orbit and test the ability to transfer propellant between the spacecraft and the module.
The launch will be the first for the Long March 7 since its inaugural flight last June carrying a set of experimental payloads. [gbtimes]
NASA is planning to make decisions in the coming months on development of a “gateway” outpost in cislunar space. At a conference last week, NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier said that the agency will make “some pretty crisp decisions” in the coming months on what kinds of payloads to fly on future SLS missions that could support development of the outpost. The facility is part of NASA’s long-term strategy to support human missions to Mars in the 2030s, but companies that have developed their own concepts for such an outpost, as part of NASA’s NextSTEP program, say that the outpost could also support human missions to the surface of the moon by the U.S. or other nations. [SpaceNews]
Vice President Mike Pence met with Buzz Aldrin on Friday to discuss space policy. In a tweet, Pence said he met with Aldrin at the White House “as we work to shape the space policy of our administration.” Neither Aldrin not the White House provided additional details about the meeting. In policy statements before the election, the Trump campaign said it would re-establish the National Space Council, which in the past has been led by the vice president. [Space.com]
Lockheed Martin has retired the Athena rocket. Steve Skladanek, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, said at the Satellite 2017 conference last week that the company does have one remaining Athena rocket in storage, but is not actively marketing it. The last Athena launch was in 2001, but Lockheed tried to revive the rocket several years ago to tap into the growing smallsat market. Skladanek also said that Lockheed, which markets the Atlas 5 to commercial customers, expects that vehicle to remain available for about five years after the introduction of the Vulcan rocket as the new rocket builds up its flight rate. [SpaceNews]
Space Florida has approved a loan for OneWeb’s satellite manufacturing plant. The state space development agency arranged the loan for OneWeb through SunTrust Bank, and the Space Florida board approved the loan Friday. That loan, as well as state incentives, will be used to support construction of the factory outside the Kennedy Space Center gates, where OneWeb will build hundreds of its broadband communications satellites. A formal groundbreaking was planned for earlier this month but postponed because of what the company said was a scheduling conflict. [Florida Politics]