Today’s Deep Space Extra

December 4th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA weighs the assembly of a second Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) to accelerate the launch rate of the Space Launch System (SLS). A long dormant thruster system on NASA’s very distant Voyager 1 spacecraft comes to life. A new NASA congressional caucus forms to confer with NASA’s next Administrator.

Human Space Exploration

NASA weighs new mobile launcher for SLS

Space News (12/1): NASA is weighing the construction of a second Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center launch site for the Space Launch System (SLS), cornerstone of its efforts to resume human deep space exploration. At a cost of $300 million, a second MLP would permit more frequent launches. The SLS could also launch planetary science missions as well as Orion capsules with astronauts aboard and hardware for lunar and Mars missions.

Lockheed Martin wants to launch a Martian space lab by 2028. But how feasible is the race to the Red Planet?

Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (11/29): Lockheed Martin veteran Rob Chambers believes Mars is in the company’s DNA, with a history of involvement dating back to the Viking lander missions of the 1970s. Now, Lockheed Martin would like to establish a Mars Base Camp, a solar powered orbiting lab with human crews assigned to scientific pursuits, including the exploration of the red planet’s surface. NASA’s proposed lunar orbiting, human tended Deep Space Gateway (DSG) could help to serve as a proving ground and departure point to help put a Mars Base Camp in place as soon as 2028, says Chambers.

Face to face with Harrison Schmitt: Space and the challenge for America

Albuquerque Journal (12/4): Apollo 17, the most recent journey to the moon by human explorers, launched 45 years ago this Thursday. Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist to make the journey, joined fellow NASA astronaut and mission commander, the late Gene Cernan, for three days on the lunar surface. Among the reasons to return to the moon, says Schmitt, is the possibility of mining Helium-3, a fusion power source for the generation of terrestrial electricity.


Space Science

NASA turns to Voyager’s dormant thrusters for first time in 37 years and they work!

Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne (12/1): Launched in 1977 and now more than 13.1 billion miles from Earth, NASA’s Voyager spacecraft has been experiencing a loss of performance in its attitude control system, the thruster network that points the probe’s communications antennas toward receivers on Earth. As a remedy, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggested reactivating Voyager 1’s trajectory control maneuver propulsion system. Not used since late 1980, the long dormant thrusters built by Aerojet Rocketdyne fired right up last week in response to commands from Earth.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) emerges from Chamber A

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman

NASA (12/1): The optical and science instrument elements of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) departed a towering Apollo era thermal vacuum chamber test facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Friday. The observatory is to be flown soon to Northrop Grumman facilities in Redondo Beach, California, where it will be readied for launch between March and June of 2019.

Pluto, other faraway worlds may have buried oceans (12/1): A new study points to the possibility the solar system hosts more habitable environments than thought in the form of planetary bodies with subsurface oceans warmed by tidal heating.  Distant Pluto may be among the candidates, which include Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.


Other News

New caucus to advocate for NASA’s needs in Congress

Space News (12/1): The new congressional NASA Caucus, formed in October and led by Steve Knight, a California Republican, and Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, awaits the swearing in of a new NASA Administrator in order to support the needs of the agency and its commercial partners, according to Knight.

Soyuz-2.1b successfully takes military satellite to orbit

TASS of Russia (12/2): Russia successfully launched a Soyuz 2-1b rocket with a military payload from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome early Saturday. The operation did not include the use of a Fregat upper stage, which was blamed for the November 28 loss of a Soyuz mission launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with a weather satellite and 18 smaller satellites.

Long March 2D space launch of mystery satellite continues China’s busy end to year of Finland (12/3): China’s 15th rocket launch of 2017, used a Long March 2D rocket, to launch a remote sensing satellite on Sunday.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of December 4-9, 2017 (12/3): In Washington, the U.S. House and Senate are in session with December 8, or Friday, looming as a deadline for action of the 2018 budget. Friday marks the end of the current Continuing Budget Resolution that is preventing federal agencies from shutting down. Elsewhere, Houston hosts its third Space Commerce Conference and Explosion Tuesday through Thursday. Rome is hosting a conference on CubesSats this week. And, in the Netherlands, the European Space Agency is hosting a science conference on NASA’ proposed Deep Space Gateway (DSG), a lunar orbiting, human tended outpost to coordinate lunar surface activities and human missions to Mars.

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