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Just like many of us during lockdown, Arianespace has bulked up payload capacity on its heavy lifter by 85kg

Also: NASA and SpaceX name the date for Crew-1, Orion assembly almost done, and more

In brief Arianespace logged a fifth successful mission for 2020 with the launch of the delayed Ariane 5 from Guiana Space Center at 22:04 UTC on 15 August.

The heavy lifter has also had its payload capacity boosted by 85kg, meaning the workhorse can lob up 10,200kg to geostationary transfer orbit.

Flight VA253 carried three payloads: the Intelsat Galaxy 30 satellite; BSAT-4b, designed for Ultra High Definition direct-to-home broadcasting across Japan; and the intriguing MEV-2 for Northrop Grumman subsidiary Space Logistics.

MEV-2 follows the successful MEV-1 mission, which is currently supporting the veteran Intelsat 901 communications satellite. The next in Space Logistics' line of space tow-trucks will be tasked with rendezvousing with Intelsat 1002.

Arianespace will next see action with VV16, the return to flight for the Vega, which was postponed from earlier this year. The mission will carry 53 satellites from 21 different customers.

NASA's Orion nears the end of the assembly road

While the core stage of the Artemis I mission continues to tick off the milestones at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi as part of the Green Run test campaign, engineers at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building worked on one of the final Orion hardware operations prior to mating the spacecraft with the SLS stack.

Last week's work attached the Orion capsule and its service module to the spacecraft adaptor cone, which will in turn eventually be mated to another adapter atop the SLS's interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS). The ICPS will accelerate the Orion stack toward the Moon before separation using a combination of pyrotechnics and springs.

NASA is planning to launch the uncrewed Artemis I in 2021 before sticking humans in the capsule ahead of a hoped-for landing on the Moon in 2024.

SpaceX gears up for its next mission to the ISS

NASA and SpaceX have set No Earlier Than (NET) 23 October for the first operational flight of its Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS), replete with four astronauts on board (up from the three of the trusty Soyuz).

Commanded by Michael Hopkins, the mission will also carry pilot Victor Glover, NASA mission specialist Shannon Walker and JAXA mission specialist Soichi Noguchi. The four will stay aboard the orbiting lab for a six-month science mission and the date has been selected to accommodate an upcoming Soyuz crew rotation.

Soyuz MS-17 will see the arrival of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins along with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will depart.

The next NASA crew handover will take place in spring 2021 with the launch of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

The Crew-1 mission does, however, remain dependant on the review of the highly successful SpaceX Demo-2 flight, which saw astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley launch to the ISS on 30 May and safely returned on 2 August.

Ex-NASA administrator Mike Griffin signs up with Rocket Lab

Doubtless with an eye on growing its US government order book, upstart small-sat launcher Rocket Lab has added former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin to its board.

Griffin brings more than 35 years of space industry experience. During his tenure as the 11th NASA Administrator from 2005 to 2009, Griffin oversaw the Space Shuttle's return to flight and signed off on the final Hubble servicing mission.

He joins existing Rocket Lab board members Sven Strohband of Khosla Ventures, David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners, Matt Ocko of DCVC (Data Collective), and Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck. ®

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