Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 13th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Vice President Mike Pence is expected to speak on space policy next week. Almost 200 Senate and House members have sent letters to their respective appropriations committees urging support for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, Exploration Ground Systems, and a new Mobile Launcher. Once again, NASA is assessing how it might launch its first astronauts on SLS. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will not end space cooperation in response to recent sanctions.

Human Space Exploration

Pence to make space policy speech next week

Space News (4/12): Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the National Space Council, is among those participating in the annual Space Symposium next week in Colorado Springs. Expect him to make a space policy announcement, possibly on the commercial space regulatory environment, said Scott Pace, the council’s executive secretary. The council is working to integrate the U.S. private sector into efforts to accelerate human deep space exploration, starting with missions to the moon.

Senate push for SLS, Orion, ground systems and new launcher (4/13): A bipartisan group of more than 30 Senators this week lobbied top appropriators to fund a new launcher for the second Orion spacecraft flight test, arguing that modifying the existing launcher would result in an almost-three-year delay between the first flight test and the first crewed mission, according to a story in this morning’s POLITICO Space newsletter. The letter also supported continued funding for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew vehicle, as well as Exploration Ground Systems. A similar letter was sent by over 160 Representatives to House appropriators last month.

NASA may fly crew into deep space sooner, but there’s a price

Ars Technica (4/12): During testimony Thursday before a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said the agency is considering launches of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion more than once using the Interim Cyrogenic Propulsion Stage, an upper stage intended initially only for the first mission of the two spacecraft components without astronauts. Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first flight, is planned for late 2019-20. The first crewed SLS/Orion mission, EM-2, was to await a new more capable Exploration Upper Stage and launch in 2023. Potentially, EM-2 could be adapted to launch with the ICPS and crew, Lightfoot told appropriators.

How 879 days of spaceflight changed this cosmonaut

National Geographic (4/12): Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka’s 879 days in space were accumulated over 17 years, working with astronauts from other countries on projects like the International Space Station. “This is probably my best discovery, that the people of different nations, from different countries, under very severe conditions, can work very successfully, can be friendly all the time, understand each other, though their situations are sometimes really stressful,” said Padalka, who has logged more time in Earth orbit than anyone.

Putin says space exploration with U.S. will go on amid sanctions

Bloomberg (4/12): Thursday was Cosmonauts Day in Russia, marking the 57th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first human spaceflight. During an event marking the occasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered assurances he has no plans to break off partnerships with the U.S., Europe and Japan in the exploration of space, including future voyages to the moon and Mars, despite recent trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. astronauts from the space agencies of all three countries currently rely on Russia for transportation to and from the International Space Station.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg says that humans could get to Mars within a decade

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (4/12): “It’s possible humans explorers could reach Mars within a decade”, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told a Washington gathering on Thursday organized by Politico. Muilenberg predicted those first explorers are more likely to reach the Red Planet using Boeing rather than SpaceX rockets. Boeing is a contractor for the development of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), a large rocket to be paired with the Orion capsule for human missions to the lunar environs and other deep space destinations.


Space Science

Living underground on other worlds exploring lava tubes

Universe Today (4/12): Though their contemporary environments are harsh, the moon and Mars appear to host lava tubes from their early epochs, which could provide refuge for future human explorers.

New planets may be forming around young nearby stars, dusty disks suggest (4/12): The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, in Chile, has spotted disk like structures around young nearby stars, suggesting that planet formation is underway. The stars are between 230 and 550 light years away.


Other News

Space ventures raise nearly $1 billion in first quarter of 2018, led by SpaceX

SpaceX (4/12): The $975.8 million first quarter estimate of non-government investment in space companies was provided by Space Angels, an investment outlet. Half the funding went to SpaceX, $500 million from Fidelity Investments to drive the development of the Starlink satellite communications network.

In the Trump administration, deep mistrust of Chinese, Russian motives in space

Space News (4/12): Scott Pace, executive secretary of the recently re-established White House National Space Council, spoke Thursday before a Politico sponsored event in Washington. The space environment around the Earth is no longer the sanctuary of the early days, said Pace. Russia and China and are responsible for transitioning the region to a war fighting domain. Nevertheless, the U.S. will continue to focus on deterrence, he said.

Rocket Lab is about to win the small satellite launch space race

Ars Technical (4/12): California based Rocket Lab is prepping to initiate commercial small satellite launch services, a new business arena, with its Electron Rocket on April 20 from its New Zealand private orbital launch facilities. Electron offers an alternative to “ride share” launches of small satellites with primary payloads on much larger rockets.

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