Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 11th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A key congressman backs efforts to press on with the Wide Field Infrared Survey Satellite (WFIRST).  SpaceX envisions major development at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Space Science

Huge dust storm on Mars hits NASA’s Opportunity rover (6/10): NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars is standing down in Perseverance Valley in response to a major dust storm. Clouded skies caused by the storm make it difficult for the rover’s solar arrays to re-charge. Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, three weeks after its companion, Spirit. Both were designed to operate for just 90 days. Both functioned much longer, though Spirit succumbed to dust and cold in 2010. Opportunity has survived worst storms.

‘At the frontier:’ NASA’s legendary Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Politico (6/8): Michael Watkins, at the helm of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, strolls through the center’s long running role in space exploration, following its rise from an Army funded research institution in 1958. Experts at JPL assembled the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, and led the Viking Mars lander and Cassini missions among others. They are now at work helping to formulate future missions to Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter, which my host habitable environments.

Could planets orbiting Alpha Centauri harbor life? NASA findings suggest it’s possible

Mashable (6/9) New studies of the radiation environment at Alpha Centauri, a three star system four light years from Earth, suggests it may be as compatible with life as the sun. The studies were conducted using the space shuttle launched Chandra X-ray Observatory.

High school students help unravel mystery of weirdly dimming ‘Tabby’s Star’ (6/8): Students from a California high school have helped to address the mystery of Tabby’s Star and its periodic dimming. Their findings are similar to those of others that point to interstellar dust as the cause of the dimming. Nearly two years ago, a professional astronomer suggested that the dimming might be caused by an alien megastructure.


Other News

Culberson supports WFIRST, But (6/10): U.S. Rep. John Culberson chairs the House panel that approves NASA’s budget. In an appearance Friday before the Space Transportation Association, Culberson expressed support for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which is facing new technical and cost challenges. Among its highest priorities are investigations of dark energy and observations of extra solar planets for signs of bio markers. The White House has proposed cancellation as WFIRST threated to surpass a $3.2 billion cost cap. Culberson believes costs should be reigned in, but he backs two new technologies that are making that difficult.

SpaceX unveils plans for massive upgrade to Kennedy Space Center operations

Orlando Business Journal (6/8): SpaceX plans a significant commercial space development at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in support of future Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations. The Roberts Roads development is to include a launch and landing control center, booster and fairing processing and storage facilities, a rocket garden, utilities yard and security office.

Senate bill increases funding for FAA commercial space office but seeks regulatory reform

Space News (6/8): U.S. Senate appropriators have joined with their House counterparts in proposing a funding increase for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to regulate an anticipated increase in launch activity. The Senate measure also calls on the office to streamline its operations.

In-orbit services poised to become big business

Coalition Member in the News – Orbital ATK

Space News (6/10): A new billion dollar market for servicing satellites in Earth orbit to extend operations is emerging, with the early focus on geostationary orbit spacecraft. Orbital ATK’s Mission Extension Vehicle could be the first of those to launch in early 2019. Refueling, deorbiting and salvage operations are expected to be among the first of the services. Similar services for low Earth orbit satellites are expected to follow.

Former NASA astronaut first to bridge the gap between space and Mission Control room floor

Houston Chronicle (6/10): Occasionally, members of NASA’s Mission Control team move to the astronaut corps. In 2015, NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer, a U.S. Army aviator, transitioned to Mission Control as a flight director, a first.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of June 10-16, 2018 (6/10): Lots in Washington this week on the space budget and policy fronts, first as the U.S. Senate acts on appropriations measures for NASA and NOAA at the subcommittee, then the appropriations committee level. The U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on project cost and schedule issues at NASA on Thursday. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine addresses the Space Transportation Association at a luncheon on Tuesday.

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