Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 17th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… U.S. Senate could vote soon on nomination of Jim Bridenstine to lead NASA. The U.S. Commerce Department will take on responsibility for space traffic management, an activity presently coordinated by the U.S. military, Vice President Mike Pence explains before the 34th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. The launching of NASA’s TESS exoplanet hunting mission has been delayed to no earlier than Wednesday.



Bridenstine nomination finally headed to the Senate floor (4/16): Actions taken by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell clear the way for a vote on the confirmation of President Trump’s nomination of Jim Bridenstine to serve as NASA administrator. NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot is to retire at the end of this month. A close vote is anticipated. Bridenstine, who was nominated initially in September 2017, is an Oklahoma congressman and former U.S. Navy aviator.

Commerce to take responsibility for space traffic management under new policy

Space News (4/16): The U.S. military, currently responsible for monitoring spacecraft and debris in orbit about the Earth, will transition that responsibility to the U.S. Commerce Department under the terms of a policy change outlined by Vice President Mike Pence before the 24th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Monday. A transition has been under assessment for some time, but previous discussions have pointed to a shift to the FAA, part of the Department of Transportation. The changes envisioned, including a proposed streamlining of launch licenses, will be reviewed soon by President Trump, Pence said.


Human Space Exploration

China reveals cause of Long March 5 failure; lunar sample mission to follow return-to-flight

Space News (4/16): China has traced the cause of a July 2017 failure of its powerful Long March 5 rocket to a turbo pump exhaust issue. The big rocket, a lynch pin in China’s future human space exploration efforts, carried out its first launch in November 2016. A return to flight for the Long March 5 with a communications satellite later this year could set the stage for China’s Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission next year.


Space Science

Launch of NASA’s TESS exoplanet hunter delayed by rocket issue (4/16): The much anticipated launching of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was delayed Monday just hours before a scheduled 6:31 p.m., EDT, liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, by NASA and launch services provider SpaceX. The delay will permit assessments of guidance, navigation and control systems on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. A second launch attempt is expected no sooner than Wednesday at 6:51 p.m., EDT.

The billion-dollar question: How does the Clipper mission get to Europa?

Ars Technica (4/16): Passionate in his support for Europa Clipper, a future NASA flyby mission to Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter that may harbor habitable environments, U.S. Rep. John Culberson, would like to see it launched on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Culberson chairs the House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA budgets. NASA is developing the SLS primarily for human deep space exploration, with payloads that include the Orion crew capsule and components of a Lunar Orbiter Platform-Gateway (LOPG). But there is not a commercial launch vehicle alternative for a speedy voyage to Europa by the large Clipper spacecraft, whose flyby reconnaissance is to lead the way for an eventual Europa lander.

The Lyrid meteor shower is coming to a sky near you this weekend

USA Today (4/16): This week brings the annual Lyrid meteor shower. The activities should peak for nighttime viewing early Sunday.


Other News

Stratolaunch planning first aircraft flight this summer

Coalition Member in the News – Orbital ATK

Space News (4/14): Stratolaunch the Seattle based commercial launch services company that plans to launch rockets from its enormous jet aircraft, intends to take flight for the first time this summer. Once certified for launch operations, the company plans to use Orbital ATK’s Pegasus launch vehicle for its spacecraft payloads. In the meantime, more runway taxi tests for the giant aircraft are planned. The latest plans were outlined Monday at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Why Sierra Nevada’s owners are betting big on Dream Chaser

Space News (4/16): Fatih and Eren Ozmen, president and CEO of Sierra Nevada Corp., explain their resolve to raise the profile of the Sparks, Nevada, aerospace company they own and their faith in the future of Dream Chaser, which has a contract to begin launching and returning cargo to the International Space Station. Once intended to transport astronauts, Dream Chaser will be the only company able to return space cargoes to multiple U.S. runways.

Could we detect an ancient industrial civilization in the geological record?

Universe Today (4/16): A new study by a U.S. climatologist and an astronomer suggests that if the Earth has been inhabited by a previous industrial civilization, they may have left behind clues to their existence that could be detected. The work has been helped along by the search for and discovery of thousands of extra solar planets.

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