Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 28th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Two key U.S. senators make bipartisan call for White House to continue funding International Space Station operations until a capable private sector successor emerges. Three U.S. and Russian astronauts descend to Earth after 168 days at the Space Station. NASA’s efforts to develop the WFIRST dark energy observatory will continue unless Congress agrees with White House call for cancellation. Investors look at mobile phone network for the moon.


Human Space Flight

Cruz, Nelson want ISS to continue until viable commercial alternative exists (2/27): In letters to the White House Office of Management and Budget and NASA, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson, or Florida, and Ted Cruz, of Texas, insist that NASA continue to fund International Space Station operations until a private sector alternative emerges. The White House 2019 budget proposal for NASA calls for an end of direct ISS operational funding in 2025 so that NASA can refocus on human deep space exploration. Nelson is the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Cruz, a Republican, chair of the Committee’s Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee.

Soyuz spacecraft brings three Station fliers home (2/28): Russia’s Soyuz MS-06 capsule descended to a wintry landing in central Kazakhstan late Tuesday to return NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin to Earth, following a 168 day mission to the International Space Station. They were quickly greeted by Russian led recovery forces. Touchdown was logged at 9:31 p.m., EST. Command of the Space Station transitioned to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. He, NASA’s Scott Tingle and Japan’s Norishige Kanai will be joined by U.S. and Russian replacements in about three weeks.

Orion walkway: NASA mounts astronaut access arm on SLS tower (2/28): At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the walkway access arm that will permit astronauts to board Orion/Space Launch System (SLS) rockets to begin future missions returning them to the lunar environs and then to other deep space destinations has been raised into place on a mobile launcher. The launch platform is parked outside Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

45th Space Congress convenes in Cape Canaveral

Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Orbital ATK, United Launch Alliance

Florida Today (2/27): The three day 45th Space Congress convened Tuesday in Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking a revival for the annual gathering. One theme for the 400 participants is private space investment.


Space Science

Hertz: WFIRST to continue as planned until Congress determines its fate (2/27): The pledge to continue with efforts to develop NASA’s technically challenging WFIRST dark energy space observatory until Congress directs otherwise came from Paul Hertz, NASA’s chief astrophysicist, in remarks before a space agency advisory panel on Tuesday. The White House called for WFIRST’s cancellation in its 2019 budget proposal for NASA. Prior to initiating development of the observatory deemed a top science priority by the National Academy of Sciences, NASA is trying to cap costs at $3.2 billion.

Could methane on Saturn’s moon Enceladus be a sign of life? (2/27): A new study suggests that Earthly microbes could survive on Saturn’s ice and ocean covered moon Enceladus. The moon’s environment includes heat generating undersea chemical reactions involving sea water and rock. Microbes could ingest hydrogen from the reaction and produce the methane that rises from the surface in geyser plumes observed by NASA’s long running Cassini mission. Findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.


Other News

Head of FAA commercial space office to retire

Space News (2/17): George Nield, a long time veteran of civil and military space and aviation, will retire at the end of in March as head of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, the organization that issues the licenses for U.S. commercial space launches. Nield plans to continue serving on NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

Atlas 5 launch on track for Thursday, SpaceX mission expected to slip

Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (2/27): NASA, NOAA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are in final preparations for the March 1 launch of an Atlas 5 rocket with the second in a series of advanced U.S. weather satellites, GOES-S. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, is set for Thursday at 5:02 p.m., EST. The weather outlook for March 1 and a March 2 backup opportunity is 80 percent favorable.

Stratolaunch aircraft edges closer to first flight

Space News (2/27): Stratolaunch’s winged commercial air launch vehicle is considered the largest aircraft ever built, with a 117 meter wingspan. The company conducted runway taxi tests at the Mojave, California, Air and Space Port on February 24 and 25. When operational, the aircraft will carry rocket launchers under its wing to altitude for a drop and ignition.

Moon to get first mobile phone network

Reuters via New York Times (2/27): Vodafone Germany, network equipment maker Nokia and car maker Audi said Tuesday they are joining to establish a commercial mobile telephone network at the lunar environs. A 2019 launch is envisioned.

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