Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 15th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Apollo 17 Astronaut Jack Schmitt makes a detailed and fact-based comparison of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) v. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, concluding that the SLS is the only rocket capable of accomplishing America’s deep space exploration mission. Spacewalking NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold equipped the International Space Station’s commercial docking port with cameras. China places a communications relay satellite in lunar orbit to support its upcoming lander rover on the Moon’s far side.

Human Space Exploration

The right rocket for the Moon and Mars

Politico (6/15): Exploration of deep space has very different requirements than space transportation to low Earth orbit – including extremely robust systems to manage risk to the astronauts, large scale infrastructure needs, and providing sufficient supplies and propellant for missions beyond low Earth orbit, writes Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut, scientist and former U.S. senator, in an op-ed. The former NASA Moon walker offers a side by side comparison of the SLS and SpaceX Falcon Heavy. “Regardless of any price-per-pound comparison that may be alleged, SLS is not only competitive with Falcon Heavy and other commercial rockets, but superior to them for human exploration mission requirements in deep space,” he concludes.

Spacewalking astronauts prep Space Station to welcome SpaceX, Boeing spaceships

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (6/14): NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel attached a pair of high definition cameras trained on the International Space Station’s docking port for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s crewed Dragon during a seven hour spacewalk on Thursday. The cameras will provide astronauts aboard the Station with a view of the approach angles for the two capsules. Uncrewed and crewed test flights of the two capsules are planned for later this year. Their launches and re-entries with astronauts on board will restore a U.S. astronaut transportation capability lost when NASA’s space shuttle fleet was retired seven years ago.

Want to take a 10-day trip to the Space Station? It’ll cost you $55 million

Coalition Member in the News – Axion (6/14): Axiom Space has just priced visitor access to the International Space Station at $55 million for a 10 day mission, including transportation and 15 weeks of training. Houston based Axion plans to assemble a commercial space station, starting with a module temporarily docked to the ISS.  Paying customers could be accommodated as soon as 2022. NASA plans to end direct funding of the station by 2025. Axiom’s co-founder, Mike Suffredini, is a former longtime NASA Space Station program manager.


Space Science

Chang’e-4 relay satellite enters halo orbit around Earth-Moon L2, microsatellite in lunar orbit

Space News (6/14): Launched May 20, the Chinese relay satellite intended to link Beijing to its much anticipated far side lunar lander/rover mission has reached its intended cis-lunar destination, a halo orbit at the Earth/Moon L-2 Lagrange point. A landing of the lander/rover near the Moon’s South Pole/Aitken Basin is planned for November or December.


Other News

Bridenstine weighs in on national space policy

Space News (6/14): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s remarks before a recent Space Transportation Association gathering (June 12) emphasized key elements of an evolving U.S. space policy. The White House in December called on the space agency to lead a sustained human return to the Moon. “We want a sustainable, long-term presence at the Moon,” said Bridenstine, who emphasized the importance of the human tended, Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOPG) that is to be assembled in the 2020s to achieving the goal.

The next space age

Space News (6/14): Texas congressmen Lamar Smith and Brian Babin, chairs of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the panels’ Space Subcommittee, predict an exciting turn for the U.S. space program, highlighted by significant contributions from the nation’s private sector. That’s why it’s significant to introduce new regulatory reforms, the two lawmakers write in an op-ed.

NASA’s Inspector General says ‘culture of optimism’ contributing to cost overruns, schedule delays

USA Today (6/14): NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin cautioned that NASA’s “can do” approach to space exploration, as evidenced by the Apollo Moon landings, fuels a culture in which achieving mission success supersedes cost and schedule. That, said Martin in testimony Thursday before the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is partly to blame for challenges confronting NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and Commercial Crew development efforts. Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, told lawmakers the agency is confronting the challenges it faces with new Joint Confidence Level Assessments. He noted as well that NASA tackles challenges that no other agency does.

Dream Chaser space plane looks beyond International Space Station

Coalition Member in the News – Orbital ATK

Politico (6/15): Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane is designed for a wide range of Earth orbital activities, whether they be associated with launching astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station or working with private sector companies involved in future orbital activities, including standalone science. Like Orbital ATK’s Cygnus and SpaceX’s Dragon, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is under contract to NASA to deliver supplies to the Space Station starting next year. The winged Dream Chaser can also return to Earth, landing on a runway. “We’re well placed that no matter what the future looks like in low Earth orbit. We’re going to be a big part of it,” said Steve Lindsay, senior director of space exploration systems and a former NASA astronaut.

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