May 8th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, faces a challenge in establishing a public/private formula for placing hardware and then humans on the lunar surface. A major new observatory is rising from the Chilean desert. The White House appears close to unveiling its new Space Situational Awareness strategy.


Human Space Exploration

Station getting ready for spacewalks and next cargo mission

Coalition Member in the News – Orbital ATK (5/7): International Space Station officials will preview a pair of upcoming spacewalks live on NASA TV Tuesday. Meanwhile, Orbital ATK is getting its Cygnus resupply ship ready for launch in less than two weeks while the Expedition 55 crew focuses on biomedical studies today. Two NASA astronauts are going out for a spacewalk May 16 to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep Station systems cool. Station experts will be on NASA TV beginning at 2 p.m. EDT today to preview next week’s spacewalk including a second spacewalk planned for June 14.


Space Science

NASA missions press ahead despite budget uncertainty

Space News (5/8): The U.S. House Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee on Appropriations, which has responsibility for NASA’s budget, is to markup a 2019 spending measure this week. The White House’s proposed $19.9 billion NASA budget for the fiscal year starting October 1 includes proposed terminations of the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST) and four Earth science missions. Work on those missions, however, goes on despite the uncertainty over a final spending measure.

How should NASA return to the Moon?

The Space Review (5/7): Late last month, NASA cancelled work on the Resource Prospector, a mission to send a rover to the poles of the Moon in search of ice, a resource for future human exploration and operations. The planetary science community is unhappy, though the agency and its new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, have committed to commercially launched alternatives. There appears little chance Congress will restore funding for Resource Prospector as part of the agency’s proposed 2019 budget. $100 million had been invested so far, and it’s not clear how quickly the commercial sector can demonstrate even a small payload lunar landing capability, writes TSR editor Jeff Foust. The small commercial landers are to pave the way for larger human rated landers.

ELT Foundation work started on Cerro Armazones

European Southern Observatory (5/7): Foundation work is underway for the dome and telescope structure of the European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope, high above Chile’s Atacama Desert.  The observatory will feature a 39 meter primary mirror, the world’s largest, for observations in the visual and near infrared. First light is anticipated in 2024.

Strained Mars data relay capabilities possible in 2020s (5/20): Efforts to bolster communications relay capabilities in Mars orbit to support key new missions, including NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, appear stalled. The relay task for surface missions, like those that will be advanced later this year with Saturday’s launch of the Mars InSight lander, is shouldered currently by NASA’s aging Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey. Funding for replacement orbiters has been slowed by interest in mounting a Mars sample return mission.


Other News

Defense Department turning over space traffic management to Commerce, but details still unclear

Space News (5/7): The significant task of Space Situational Awareness, or managing low Earth orbit space traffic, is poised for transition from the Department of Defense to the Department of Commerce, according to the report. It is a transition once believed to be moving from the Pentagon to the FAA, part of the Department of Transportation. The move including details on timing awaits President Trump’s signature. About 1,500 active satellites are monitored as well as 20,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters. There are many thousands more smaller objects that pose a potential impact threat. The transition is to help the Pentagon place more focus on national security.

CNES creating a space startup fund

Space News (5/7): Following the lead of Japan, the French space agency, CNES, has announced the established of an investment fund to help space startups. The investment equals $95 to $119 million in U.S. dollars.

First launch of enhanced version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 set for Thursday (5/7): SpaceX is targeting the inaugural launch of its Falcon9, Block 5 rocket for Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch vehicle is to boost a communications satellite for Bangladesh.

Jupiter at opposition 2018: How to see it today (5/7): Giant Jupiter, in opposition to the sun and in two days as close to Earth as it gets, appears bright to the East a few hours after sunset on today.

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