Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 12th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s human deep space exploration ambitions are counting on advances in propulsion technology and heavy lift. China’s lunar far side lander/rover enters critical pre-launch test phase. NASA’s Steve Jurczyk moves to agency’s No. 3 position.

Human Space Exploration

We just completed a record-breaking test of a revolutionary ion engine

Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne

Futurism (11/2/17): At NASA’s Glenn Research Center a new propulsion technology is emerging, ion propulsion, using the space proven X3 Hall thruster. NASA’s long running Dawn mission at the asteroid Ceres is equipped with ion propulsion, and as higher thrust levels are achieved, ion propulsion could transport humans as well as equipment to Mars in much shorter periods of time. Aerojet Rocketdyne leads development of the X3 power supply.

If you come at the Space Launch System (SLS), you best not miss

The Planetary Society (3/9): The roots of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) reach back to 2005, when there were no commercial alternatives on the horizon to launch the crews and the hardware required for human deep space exploration. Then known as the Ares, it was cancelled by former President Obama in 2010, but soon resurrected by Congress as the SLS. Despite the success of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, it could be some years before the commercial sector can mount a market responsive launch vehicle with the capabilities of the SLS.

A look inside isolation, confinement study taking place at NASA

KPRC-TV of Houston (3/9): NASA’s study of human volunteers, with astronaut like credentials, in isolated environments like those that will accompany deep space missions continues at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Four volunteers are currently participating in a 45 day mission simulation in a cylinder shaped habitat in an isolated area of the space center.


Space Science

France, India to work on planetary rovers

Deccan Herald (3/10): The Indian and French space agencies have agreed to work cooperatively on autonomous rover navigation and aerobraking technologies for the surface exploration of the moon, Mars and other planets. The agreement announced Saturday includes working on modeling the thick atmosphere of Venus to develop airborne exploration technologies.

Chang’e-4 lander and rover undergoing thermal vacuum tests ahead of lunar far side mission

GB Times of Finland (3/9): A December launch is planned for China’s lunar far side lander/rover mission. Currently, the hardware is undergoing thermal vacuum testing to determine how it will respond to the lunar environment.

Equinox cracks forming in Earth’s magnetic field (3/12): Expect bright Arctic aurora.


Other News

Jurczyk moves up to acting NASA AA, Reuter takes over STMD (3/10): The White House’s proposed 2019 budget for NASA would fold the agency’s space technology mission directorate into the human space exploration and operations directorate.  In anticipation, Steve Jurczyk, who has led the technology effort, has been transitioned to NASA’s No. 3 post, acting associate administrator, the post held by Robert Lightfoot, now NASA’s acting administrator, until the President Trump was sworn in in 2017. Jim Bridenstine’s nomination as NASA administrator awaits U.S. Senate confirmation. The White House has yet to nominate a deputy administrator.

SpaceX aims to test its Mars rocket system in first half of 2019 (3/11): Speaking Sunday at the South By Southwest Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the company’s Big Falcon Heavy Mars rocket could launch for the first time in 2019. Acknowledging that he is challenged by over optimism, Musk said the flights would be “short up and down flights”.

Planetary Resources revising plans after funding setback

Space News (3/12): Planetary Resources, the asteroid prospecting company, has successfully tested a range of key spacecraft technologies with the Arkyd-6 CubeSat launch in January as a secondary payload on an Indian launch vehicle. However, a recent investment setback is slowing company plans to launch its first near Earth asteroid mission, one to measure water content, once envisioned for 2020. Chris Lewicki, company president and CEO, spoke Saturday at the Beyond the Cradle conference at MIT.

Soyuz ST-B launcher lofts O3b quartet to orbit (3/9): A Russian Soyuz rocket in a commercial launch configuration placed four communications satellite into orbit on Friday. The launch was from the European space center in French Guiana. Ob3 Networks is a subsidiary of Luxembourg based SES.

Moriba Jah, Texas perspectives: We ignore growing space trash problem at our peril

Waco Tribune (3/9): In an op-ed, Moriba Jah, a University of Texas aerospace engineer, warns of the potential hazards posed by the growing numbers of satellite launches and an absence of space traffic management to help dispose of the space junk and the collision threat the junk poses.

FCC accuses stealthy startup of launching rogue satellites

IEEE Spectrum (3/9): On January 12, an Indian rocket launched with an Earth mapping satellite as the primary payload. Also along were dozens of small satellites, including four apparently supplied by a U.S. startup that had recently failed to obtain an FAA license for a launch of the four satellites because of potential collisions risk concerns.


Space Related Activities for the Week

Space related activities for the week of March 11-16, 2018 (3/11): This week’s activities include the 2018 Satellite Conference and the American Astronautical Society’s Goddard Memorial Symposium, the conference in Washington, the symposium in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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