China’s second space lab, Europe’s satellite to track global warming and SpaceX’s launch attempt

space-stationChina presses ahead with space ambitions, deploying second space lab

China announced Sunday it was sending its second space lab into orbit later this year, followed by a manned spacecraft that will dock with it. Tiangong-2, or “Heavenly Palace-2,” will be the second Chinese space lab deployed above the earth in five years.

If the launch is successful, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will go up with two astronauts on board and try to connect with Tiangong-2 while in orbit, a statement from the office of the China Manned Space Program said. But before that, the country will test launch the Long March 7, a rocket it’s developing to carry a cargo spacecraft to the Tiangong-2 in early 2017.

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Europe launches Sentinel-3A satellite to help track global warming

Europe has launched a satellite it is hoped will help predict climate change patterns as well as improve everyday weather forecasting. The Sentinel-3A satellite blasted off on board a rocket launcher from Plesetsk in northwestern Russia as part of the Copernicus Earth observation project.

“In general, what we try to reach with the Sentinel satellites is what we have done maybe 35 years ago in meteorology. We have built an operation and satellite system to improve the forecast. So, Sentinel-3, if you want, gives us a bigger picture. That means that the instruments on board have a lower resolution. But for that we have every day the status of our planet,” said Volker Liebig, Director of the European Space Agency’s Earth Observation Programmes.

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Wayward boat gets blamed after SpaceX aborts Falcon 9 rocket liftoff at last second

160228-abort-1A wayward boat and a load of liquid oxygen that got too warm forced SpaceX to abort what might have been a successful launch of the SES-9 telecommunication satellite today, just as the engines were firing up.

The snags mean SpaceX will have to wait until at least Tuesday for the next opportunity to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and to try landing the first-stage booster on an oceangoing platform in the Atlantic.

Today marked the third scrub for the launch, which is aimed at putting Luxembourg-based SES’ satellite into orbit to provide TV and data services to customers in the Asia-Pacific region. The first two delays were due to concerns over chilling down the rocket’s liquid oxygen propellant to the optimal temperature. Liquid oxygen played a role in today’s postponement as well, but there were a couple of additional twists.

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