* Deployment of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter, which will look for subsurface water ice, has resumed after a short delay. The first of the radar's three booms had deployed only 12 of its 13 segments. ESA decided the cold could have affected the glassfibre, Kevlar booms and reoriented the Mars Express orbiter to let the Sun warm the boom – and it worked. The remaining two booms will be deployed this week.

* Orbital Sciences is to compete against Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 1 to provide responsive space launches under a US Air Force contract worth up to $100 million. Orbital is offering two small air-launched boosters: Raptor 1, released from beneath a carrier aircraft and similar to its Lockheed L-1011-launched Pegasus; and Raptor 2, parachute-extracted from a USAF Boeing C-17 transport.

* Alliant TechSystems (ATK) has ground-tested deployment and attitude control of a 20 x 20m (65 x 65ft) solar sail in a vacuum chamber at NASA Glenn Research Center. The carbonfibre coilable masts between the sail segments, which tension the reflective film, weigh less than 70g/m when sized for an 80m sail, says ATK, while allowing the system to be compacted by a factor of 100 for launch.

Source: Flight International