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Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

Come here for my take on UK and European space as well as the latest on major science stories

Ariane 6: Customers call the shots

Ariane
A6.1 would loft the big telecoms satellites; A6.2 would put up the low-orbiting, Earth-observation spacecraft

Europe's rocket industry is currently going through something of an epiphany - the realisation that it must adapt, and fast, or simply become irrelevant.

More than half of the big commercial satellites that are working up there - the ones that relay our TV, phone calls, and internet traffic - were lofted by Ariane vehicles. But that dominance is now under threat from new launchers that promise to undercut Europe's best on price.

America's SpaceX - there's no need to whisper the name - is wooing satellite operators with rides on its Falcon 9, for ticket prices that substantially undercut the Ariane 5.

Efforts have been made to push forward with a next-generation European rocket - an Ariane 6 - that could be made much more cheaply. But the concept, which has been studied for the past 18 months, has left most observers flat.

More importantly, it has underwhelmed the satellite operators as well, which is why a new concept has now been sprung on the world by Airbus Defence and Space, and Safran - the main players in Ariane production.

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Rosetta edges towards Comet 67P

Comet 67P
Are we nearly there yet? Image taken from a distance of about 86,000km

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is edging ever closer to its quarry - the 4km-wide Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Thursday's separation is just 43,000km, and the narrowing gap is evident in the probe's latest photo release.

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Malaysian jet MH370: Refined analysis drives new search area

File photo: HMAS Perth transits through the southern Indian Ocean as an Orion P-3K of the Royal New Zealand Air Force searches for debris for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370, 13 April 2014
Search teams have spent months trying to find signs of the missing plane

As expected, and reported by the BBC last week, the search for MH370 is going to shift hundreds of kilometres to the south of where an Australian defence vessel thought, mistakenly, it had detected signals from the jet’s submerged flight recorders.

The new region is a consequence of further, refined analysis of the brief, automated satellite communications with the plane in its last hours.

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Rosetta: Icy quarry coming into view

Comet
Rosetta views Comet 67P on 4 June, using the Osiris Narrow Angle Camera

Take your seats because the show is about to begin.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe is edging ever closer to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for what is expected to be one of the most daring space encounters in history.

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Skylon ‘spaceplane economics stack up’

Skylon D1
Skylon is the result of 30 years' development and probably about 100m euros (£80m) of investment so far

It appears a feasible proposition, economically. That is the conclusion of a study that considered a European launch service based on a Skylon re-usable spaceplane.

The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency (Esa), was led by Reaction Engines Limited (REL) of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space (TAS).

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MH370 spur to 'better ocean mapping'

Bluefin-21
The Bluefin-21 sub aborted its first dive because it was about to exceed its depth limits

Scientists have welcomed the decision to make all ocean depth data (bathymetry) gathered in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 publicly available.

A detailed survey of 60,000 sq km of seabed is to be undertaken to help refine the hunt for the lost jet.

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Jonathan added analysis to:

Flight MH370: Malaysia releases raw satellite data

The release document comprises long columns of numbers, including detail on the now famous "handshakes" when Inmarsat's ground network made connections with equipment on board the plane.

The last of these occurred at 00:19:38 UTC. It's a partial handshake, possibly the plane attempting to log back on to the network after a power interruption as the jet ran out of fuel.

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Ukraine crisis sends a chill into orbit

Soyuz capsule
The latest Soyuz landing was a model of international co-operation

A Soyuz capsule returned to Earth on Wednesday with its international cosmonauts.

Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Japan's Koichi Wakata had spent 188 days orbiting the planet on the International Space Station.

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SpaceX rocket stage in 'soft landing'

Boost stage and legs
The triangular features shown here are the legs that deploy just before landing

SpaceX says its recent experiment to return part of its Falcon-9 rocket back to Earth under control was a success.

The US company has confirmed that the first-stage of the vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral a week ago used its engines to slow its fall, deployed a set of legs and made a "soft landing".

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Asteroid impact risks 'underappreciated'

A visualisation showing where sizeable asteroids have hit the Earth in recent years has been released by the B612 Foundation.

The US-based group, which includes a number of former Nasa astronauts, campaigns on the issue of space protection.

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About Jonathan

Jonathan has been a science specialist with the BBC since 1994.

He was part of the team that set up the BBC News website in 1997.

His online science reporting has won major awards in Britain.

Jonathan is perhaps best known for his European space coverage.

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