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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expresses concerns over Earth science cuts in pending U.S. House legislation. NASA is shaping up use of the lunar realm for Orion/Space Launch System test flights to mature habitats and other technologies for human asteroid, Mars missions. Mars One presents a closer look at its astronaut selection processes. Congressman John Culberson, who leads NASA’s House appropriations panel, urges NASA to include a search for life lander in Europa mission planning. Is the big bang a thing of the future as well as the past? Europe’s Rosetta probe finds Comet 67/P suitably alien. SETI pioneer Jill Tarter reflects, and endorses exploration to answer the question: Are we alone? China readies a year end dark matter mission. Four shuttle era astronauts join the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The Planetary Society’s novel LightSail orbiter restores communications. Amateur satellite spotters find the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B. Russians point to turbo pump failure as the cause of a May 16 Proton-M rocket failure. Aerojet Rocketdyne reaches milestone in U.S. Air Force efforts to develop a new rocket engine. Seattle’s aerospace community blends the new with the old. Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo marks spaceship assembly milestone. This week’s major space related activities include a NASA test flight and a Washington panel discussion on the past and future of human space exploration.
NASA’s 2016 Budget
Los Angeles Times (5/29): NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expressed disappointment in legislation pending in the U.S. House that would cut NASA’s Earth science budget, though he welcomed increases headed for development of the Space Launch System exploration rocket and planetary science as a result. Bolden’s West Coast visit included a stop at Aerojet Rocketdyne facilities, which manufactures rocket engines for the SLS.
Human Deep Space Exploration
Space News (5/29): NASA is looking to the realm between the Earth and moon as a proving ground for new in-space habitats and other technologies to support the eventual human exploration of Mars. The test flights will rely on the new Orion crew exploration capsule and Space Launch System exploration rocket for operations beyond Exploration Mission-2. The 2021 EM-2 flight is to mark the first crewed flight of Orion and SLS for a trip around the moon. A subsequent mission would deliver astronauts to an asteroid boulder captured and maneuvered to lunar orbit as part of NASA’s planned Asteroid Retrieval Mission. Others would test space habitats and technologies for more distant journeys.
Business Insider (5/29): The Dutch nonprofit Mars One offers a closer look at the controversial selection process it is employing to select prospective red planet settlers. Some have criticized the organization’s processes for a lack of rigor. Mars One is looking at the late 2020s to launch its first settlers.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
Houston Chronicle (5/29): The moons of the solar system’s outer planets are intriguing areas to examine in the search for life beyond Earth. None beckon more urgently than Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon Europa, according to John Culberson, the Houston Congressman who chairs NASA’s House appropriations subcommittee. The legislator is urging the space agency to include a lander as part of challenging orbital mission planned for the 2020s. Cost is an issue.
Space.com (5/29): Could the universe expand and contract? Princeton researcher Edward Belbruno and his colleagues examine the prospects, which may involve a struggle between the forces of dark energy and dark matter.
Spaceflightnow.com (5/31): Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko appears treacherous and quite alien in a recent set of photos transmitted by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft. Rosetta is accompanying the comet in its track around the sun, following a rendezvous last August.
The Huffington Post (5/31): Jill Tarter is among the nation’s pioneers in the search for extra-terrestrial life, or SETI. Now retired, Tarter still ponders the answer to the question: Are we alone? “The question will only be answered by exploration,” says Tarter, who was the inspiration for the intense astronomer in Carl Sagan’s fictional book, Contact, and the 1997 film of the same name.
Xinhuanet (5/30): The dark matter particle explorer (DAMPE), a Chinese spacecraft equipped to observe the direction, energy and charge of high energy particles in space to further the search for dark matter, is scheduled for launching later this year. A three year mission is planned.
Low Earth Orbit
Spaceflightnow.com (5/30): NASA shuttle era astronauts John Grunsfeld, Steve Lindsey, Kent Rominger and Rhea Seddon entered the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.
NBCNews (5/31): Launched as a secondary CubeSat payload aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 on May 20, the Planetary Society’s LightSail experiment lost contact two days later. Contact was re-established late Saturday, apparently as the result of an anticipated hit from a cosmic ray particle that rebooted the small spacecraft’s flight control system. The Planetary Society is hopeful it can soon test the deployment mechanism for the novel LightSail, a potential deep space propulsion strategy. The primary Atlas payload was the U.S. Air Force X-37B reusable space plane.
Space.com (5/29): Launched May 20, the U.S. Air Force’s reusable X-37B is carrying out a classified mission on its fourth flight. That has not stopped amateur satellite trackers from spotting the unpiloted spacecraft that resembles a miniature space shuttle.
KPCC-FM, of Los Angeles (5/29): Water is a precious commodity in space. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are pioneering recycling technologies.
Commercial to Orbit
Space News (5/30): A Russian investigation identified a third stage failure as the cause of a May 16 Proton loss with a Mexican communications satellite, MexSat-1. The specific cause was imbalance of the turbo pump unit rotor caused by the degradation of its material properties at high temperatures, and improper balancing, according to the report.
Spacepolicyonline.com (5/30): Authorities in Russia attribute the cause of a May 16 Proton-M rocket failure to a third stage turbo pump design flaw. The assessment matches the suspected cause of a 1988 Proton crash. The latest failure claimed a Mexican communications satellite, MexSat-1.
Space News (5/29): Russia’s May 16 Proton-M rocket loss was the fourth for the venerable rocket in three years, raising questions about quality control as well as manufacturing processes. Satellite owners and their insurance underwriters awaiting upcoming launches, however, have little alternative but to stay on the Proton manifest. Russia has not announced when the Proton will return to flight. The manifests of competing U.S. and European commercial launch services companies are full in the near term, and any change in launch services providers would likely lead to unwanted delays.
AmericaSpace.com (5/29): Under the leadership of the U.S. Air Force Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator program, Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed the first in a series of sub scale, oxygen-rich pre-burner tests, and a step toward the development of a new hydrocarbon rocket engine. Currently, the U.S. lags behind Russia and in particular the RD-180, according to the report.
Space News (5/29): The Virginia based satellite and rocket builder forecasts increased revenues from its geostationary commercial satellite sector in a conference call with investors. The company’s Antares rocket should return to flight in March with a new Russian made rocket engine. The Antares is recovering from an Oct. 28 launch failure blamed on a Russian rocket engine of an earlier design.
Seattle Times (5/30): Seattle counts the newest and the oldest among the nation’s aviation and aerospace community. Tethers Unlimited is at work on techniques to bag an asteroid. Blue Origin and Vulcan Aerospace are developing new launch systems. Planetary Resources envisions asteroid mining. Aerojet Rocketdyne and Boeing are among those in the region that pioneered the industry.
Space.com (5/29): The future suborbital passenger spaceship is under construction in Mojave, California. The new ship reached an assembly milestone last week as it tested the mechanism the lowers the landing gear. Virgin Galactic is recovering from an Oct. 31 in flight accident that claimed the life of one of two pilots.
Major Space Related Activities for the Week
Spacepolicyonline.com (5/31): NASA plans its second test flight of a Low Density Supersonic Decelerator technology to enable landings on planetary surfaces. U.S. House appropriators plan further actions on 2016 budget legislation regarding NASA, NOAA and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. In Washington, the Center for American Progress hosts a panel discussion on the past and future of human space exploration.
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