Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 9th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Policy makers weigh the challenges of establishing a public/private alternative to the NASA managed International Space Station. Russia prepares a third attempt at an expedited cargo mission to the Space Station. NASA’s Kepler mission suspends observations as fuel reserves decline. NASA and the European Space Agency agree on a strategy for a Mars sample return mission.

Human Space Exploration

Trump wants NASA out of the ISS operations business: easier said than done

Space News (7/5): The White House budget proposal for NASA in 2019 calls on the agency to end direct funding of the International Space Station by 2025 and seek a commercial low Earth orbit alternative for the agency’s future R and D needs. Some in Congress oppose a deadline that is less than the station’s operational life. NASA is emphasizing the need for continued access to low Earth orbit to maintain continued U.S. leadership in space as well as for research, even as it transitions its human exploration focus to deep space. Some parts of the ISS could be expected to function until 2040, creating options as to how a public/private successor might be implemented. A key question, however, is whether the cost of space transportation can decline enough to create a meaningful business case for access to low Earth orbit beyond NASA’s needs.

Russian cargo ship to try fast-track rendezvous with Space Station (7/7): Russia’s next Progress cargo mission to the six person International Space Station is set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday at 5:51 p.m., EDT, and dock with the Space Station in less than four hours, setting a possible precedent for future crewed Soyuz missions. Typically, Progress and Soyuz mission unfold over four orbits of the Earth or six hours, or 34 orbits and two days, depending on launch vehicle performance and orbital mechanics. Two previous attempts at the “fast track” Progress cargo deliveries in February and last October were halted late in their countdowns.

Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft could find new life as a lunar taxi

Popular Mechanics (7/6): In order to hasten its lunar exploration plans, Russia may turn to the venerable Soyuz spacecraft to transport its cosmonauts on cislunar missions. Russia is developing a new human spacecraft, the Federation, for human lunar missions, though its development has been much delayed. A Soyuz destination could be the Lunar Orbiter Platform-Gateway (LOPG) that NASA plans to assemble with international partners starting in 2022.

China readying for space station era: Yang Liwei

Xinhuanet of China (7/8): China intends to launch the core module for its new space station in 2020, according to Yang Liwei, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office and the China’s first astronaut. Experiment modules, cargo and crew missions are to follow, plus an optical space observatory.


Space Science

ESA awards Mars sample return study contracts as international cooperation plans take shape

Space News (7/8): The European Space Agency has awarded two study contracts to Airbus for contributions to a joint Mars sample return mission with NASA. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to gather and cache samples of rock and soil after landing on the red planet in early 2021. ESA would send a fetch rover to collect the cached samples and deliver them to a NASA ascent vehicle that would launch the samples to an ESA Mars orbiter for return to Earth. NASA would supply a handling device and biocontainer for the orbiter as well as an Earth re-entry vehicle.

NASA’s Kepler probe suspends planet hunt to download data as fuel runs near empty (7/6): NASA’s exo-planet hunting Kepler space telescope mission may be drawing to a close. The spacecraft, launched in March 2009, is credited with the discovery of about 2,700 confirmed extra solar planets. Kepler’s fuel reserve is running low and managers have placed it in safe mode to preserve its ability to send the latest data back to Earth early next month.


Other News 

A trillion-dollar space industry will require new markets

Space News (7/5): Three financial studies project a growing global space market economy, one reaching $1 trillion or a bit more in the 2040s, according to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, but perhaps reaching as much as $2.7 trillion, according to an especially optimistic analysis by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. However, another recent study shows growth slowing — after achieving $348 million globally in 2017, up just a percent over the previous year. Government and communications are the major contributors, and in order to reach $1 trillion the market must have new players, according to experts who discussed the landscape at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2018 conference in late June.

Inmarsat rejects second EchoStar merger proposal

Space News (7/6): Colorado based satellite fleet operator EchoStar announced July 6 it would halt efforts to acquire the U.K.’s Inmarsat, following rejection of a $4.25 billion acquisition attempt.

Virgin Galactic to provide Italian spacecraft

San Franando Valley Business Journal (7/6): On Friday, Virgin Galactic and Spaceship Co., both of Mojave, California, announced an agreement with Sitael S.p.A. and Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Co. to provide a Spaceship Co., spacecraft at the future Grottaglie Spaceport in Italy. The spacecraft will be used for suborbital passenger flights to as well as a science and research platform for the Italian Space Agency.

China Focus: China launches two satellites for Pakistan

Xinhuanet of China (7/9): China on Monday launched two satellites manufactured for Pakistan, an optical remote sensing spacecraft to survey land and natural resources and a satellite to help expand China’s standing in the commercial satellite remote sensing market.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week 

Major space related activities for the week of July 8-14, 2018 (7/8): Russia is prepped for a third attempt to carry out the fastest ever cargo delivery to the International Space Station, starting with a Progress launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday at 5:51 p.m., EST. The Progress capsule is to dock with the six person Space Station in less than four hours. With success, two day and six hour long Soyuz crew launches to the Space Station could be shortened as well. The AIAA’s annual Propulsion and Energy Forum meets in Cincinnati on Monday through Wednesday. Among the presentations is a Monday session entitled, SLS and Orion-Progress Toward Flight, the U.S. House and Senate are in session this week.

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