Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 11th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space ExtraNASA moves ahead with development of its Orion crew capsule and its escape system for a crucial April 2019 test launch. A 2019 NASA budget measure approved by a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee this week furthers efforts to send a planetary science flyby mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter with a potentially habitable environment.

Policy and Budget

House bill keeps Europa Clipper on track despite launch vehicle uncertainties

Space News (5/10): A first-ever planetary science mission to Europa, the geologically active ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter, remains on course for a 2022 launch, under the provisions of a 2019 appropriations bill marked up by the U.S. House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations subcommittee earlier this week. The legislation, which moved onto the full House Appropriations Committee late Tuesday, includes $545 million for continued development of NASA’s Europa Clipper, which would carry out multiple flybys of Europa while orbiting Jupiter. NASA has noted that at this time the Space Launch System is the only launch vehicle capable of carrying out the mission. Europa appears to host potentially habitable environments, and further study is considered a planetary science high priority by the National Academy of Sciences.


Human Space Exploration

NASA’s Orion spacecraft getting closer to finally flying again  

Ars Technica (5/8): NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) is the focus of efforts to launch the Orion crew capsule for a second time. The first orbital test flight of an uncrewed capsule unfolded successfully in December 2014. Now, the space agency is working toward a second test, Ascent Abort-2, planned for April 2019 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Mounted on a Peacekeeper missile stage, an Orion mock up without astronauts is to rise quickly so that its Launch Abort System can pull the capsule away, just as it would if a human crew was aboard and their Space Launch System (SLS) rocket experienced a problem. Meanwhile, NASA is working toward the first combined SLS/Orion test flight in late 2019 or early 2020. Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is to send Orion around the moon and back to Earth for an ocean recovery and setting the stage for the first SLS/Orion mission with astronauts.

How to chart the price of a trip to Mars

Quartz (5/9): To get a U.S. mission to Mars before 2050, the program must cost less than $220 billion, according to a significant 2014 government study that Torrey Radcliffe, analyst for the Aerospace Corporation, contributed to. “That’s a number [a trillion dollars] I’ve heard a lot. I’ve never seen one reach a trillion dollars.” But, he says, the big ticket price is not the right question. “That’s the reason we have the sand charts,” he says. The sand chart uses area to depict the costs of developing, operating and sustaining all the stuff needed to send people into space over time. The key benchmark Radcliffe and his colleagues use for these charts is the amount of money the U.S. government gives NASA every year for human exploration, with the assumption that it won’t go down—and might increase gradually.

Made In Space wins NASA contract for next-gen ‘Vulcan’ manufacturing system 

Coalition Member in the News – Made In Space (5/8) Made In Space, the California-based company, which built the two 3D printers aboard the International Space Station (ISS), just secured a NASA contract to continue developing its next-generation Vulcan manufacturing system. The new contract is a Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award. Made In Space recently completed the work laid out under the company’s Phase 1 SBIR contract for Vulcan, which Made In Space received last year. When Vulcan is ready to go, Made In Space aims to demonstrate the technology on the ISS, showing Vulcan’s potential usefulness for a variety of exploration missions.

Space Science

The challenge of space gardening: One giant ‘leaf’ for mankind (5/11): NASA has decided that gardening in space will be crucial for the next generation of explorers, who need to feed themselves on missions to the Moon or Mars that may last months or years. The U.S. space agency has enlisted the help of 15,000 high school student botanists from 150 schools and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to help them practice. The Miami-based garden has identified 106 plant varieties that might do well in space, including hardy cabbages and leafy lettuces. The four-year project is about midway through, and is paid for by a $1.24 million grant from NASA.

Search for life on Mars could get water-enhanced boost

Astrobiology Magazine (5/4): In 2008, NASA’s Phoenix lander mission to Mars made a discovery: the Martian soil has enough perchlorate chemicals to destroy organics, the building blocks for biological activity. Now, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have devised a possible technique, subcritical water extraction, to seek out evidence for amino acids, organic compounds, even in the presence of perchlorates.

The giant planets in the Solar System stunted the growth of Mars

Universe Today (5/10): So, how and why Mars, similar to but smaller than the Earth, with intriguing but uncertain evidence of habitability? The early motion and dynamics of the solar system’s largest and most distant larger planets may offer an explanation.

Jupiter and Venus change Earth’s orbit every 405,000 years

Universe Today (5/10): Gravitational influences from Venus and Jupiter appear to change the Earth’s orbit in repeating cycles every 405,000 years causing changes in climate. New evidence supporting the theory has been detected in sediment and core samples extracted by U.S. researchers from the Newark Basin, of New Jersey, and the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  Study findings were published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

This asteroid shouldn’t be where astronomers found it

New York Times (5/10): 2004 EW95 is 195 miles long and 2.5 billion miles from Earth in Neptune’s neighborhood. An Irish astronomy team spotted the object, noting its carbon nature in a neighborhood of otherwise icy planetary objects. EW95 might otherwise be expected to orbit the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, not the icy Kuiper Belt. EW95 may have formed closer to the sun long ago, only to be pulled along by gravity as giant Jupiter and Saturn migrated from the inner to the outer solar system, according to researchers.


Other News

NASA successfully test fires 3D-printed rocket engine part

Popular Mechanics (5/10): NASA successfully hot-fire tested a 3D-printed combustion chamber for a rocket engine. The successful test is the latest in a series of advancements in 3D-printed rocket technology from both private companies and public research groups, creating a jacket for the lining for the combustion chamber. The engine project is the work of three NASA centers across the country: Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

SpaceX aims for Friday launch of new Falcon 9 rocket

Florida Today (5/10): Launch of SpaceX’s inaugural Falcon 9, Block 5, the latest and final version of the Falcon 9 rocket was scrubbed during the final moments of a countdown Thursday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch with a Bangladeshi communications satellite was rescheduled for Friday evening. A ground systems abort was blamed for the delay.

A Florida-based company hopes to compete in the commercial space industry with new 3D-printed rocket fuel

Orlando Weekly (5/9): Rocket Crafter, Inc. a Cocoa Beach, Fla., start-up, plans the 3-D manufacture of propellant for commercial launch services industry clients. The fuel is tailored for rocket engines that burn solid as well as liquid propellant.

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