Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 7th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Space Launch System could become an attractive launch option to future planetary science and astrophysics missions as well as a cornerstone for human deep space exploration.

Human Space Exploration

Meet the Space Launch System: NASA’s next big-ass rocket (8/3): NASA’s planned Space Launch System, still in development, has a growing line of mission candidates. They range from Exploration Mission-1, an uncrewed test flight of the Orion capsule, possibly a planetary science mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa and a Deep Space Gateway, a crewed lunar orbiting space habitat.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo plane glides through a ‘dry run’ for blastoff (8/4): At California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, Virgin Galactic reports that SpaceShipTwo carried out a successful piloted glide test flight, a dry run for a future rocket powered flight, on Friday. The rocket ship was carried to 40,000 feet by its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo, prior to release.


Space Science

After 5 years on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover is still making big discoveries (8/5): NASA’s Curiosity rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, carried out a dramatic landing within Gale Crater on Mars five years ago Aug. 5. Soon after landing, the rover found mineral evidence for a past neutral form of surface water on the now cold and arid crater floor and conditions that could have supported past microbial activity.

What Curiosity has yet to tell us about Mars

Science News (8/4): With a mission extended through October 2018, NASA’s Curiosity rover is scaling Mount Sharp, a rise within Mars’ Gale Crater. The rover is on the lookout for remnants of ancient life, evidence of periodic water flows and possible sources of methane gas that have been detected previously.

What is the best way to mine the moon?

Space News (8/4):  A lunar village could serve as the catalyst for drawing resources like water and metals from the regolith and using them to manufacture everything from shelters to tools, life support needs and rocket fuel, writes Mark Whittington in an op-ed.

Russian, U.S. experts suggest launching satellite and balloons as part of Venus space probe

TASS of Russia (8/4): The U.S. and Russia are assessing concepts for Venera-D, a planetary science mission to Venus that could be launched in 2026.  The mission may require an orbiter, sub-orbiters, balloons and possibly landers to look for evidence of past life and to help explain the planet’s global warming.


Other News

Telemetry glitch kept first Electron rocket from reaching orbit

Space News (8/7): Rocket Lab finds that a subcontract’s ground equipment triggered a range safety response that prematurely halted the flight of the company’s new Electron rocket in May from a New Zealand launch site. The launch vehicle was actually on course to achieve orbit, according to Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO. A follow on test flight for the new rocket is planned for late October. Moon Express, a Rocket Lab customer, could still have a chance to launch its Google Lunar X-Prize contending commercial lunar lander mission by year’s end, according to the report.

Build-up begins for first Minotaur rocket launch from Cape Canaveral (8/4): Stacking is underway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, of surplus military missile rocket segments. Sourced from decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles, the hardware is to fly as Orbital ATK’s Minotaur 4. Plans call for a launch late Aug. 25 of SensorSat, a spacecraft that will monitor the movements of satellites and orbital debris in geosynchronous orbit.

Shuttle-era structure dismantled piece-by-piece at pad 39A (8/5): At the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39-A, ground crews are dismantling shuttle-era hardware once used to install payloads, including International Space Station elements, in the shuttle’s large payload bay. SpaceX operates the former Apollo and shuttle era launch complex under a NASA contract. The company’s plans will not require the rotating gantry.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week of August 6-13

Major space related activities for the week of August 6-13 (8/6): Logan, Utah is host to the Small Satellite Conference this week and Washington host to the NASA ISS Stakeholders Workshop. The space agency will also brief on the science accompanying its next NASA contracted commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station. Congress is not in session. The president is in New Jersey for a vacation.

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