Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 7th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra…. Plans for NASA’s Gateway, a lunar orbiting, human tended space station continue to mature, though some experts wonder whether it should be staffed by astronauts. Roscosmos, the Russian state space agency, continues its investigation into the source of a small hole discovered in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) last week and plugged. Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft flies near the asteroid Ryugu as it prepares to deploy landers for sample collection and eventual return to Earth.

Human Space Exploration

Orion’s third flight will haul two pieces of a space station to lunar orbit

Planetary Society (9/6): The first two flights of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule will send the capsule on a round trip around the Moon, first without astronauts in the 2021 time frame, and then with crew, perhaps in 2023, if not sooner. When SLS/Orion launches for a third time in 2024, the payload will be astronauts and two components of the human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway, or habitat. Those two modules will join with the first piece of the Gateway, a power and propulsion module launched in 2022. The modules launched in 2024 will possibly include Europe’s ESPIRIT, refueling and communications components and a U.S. utilization module with interfaces for Canadian robotics.

Maybe NASA’s next space station doesn’t need the astronauts

Popular Mechanics (9/6): Perhaps, NASA should consider an alternative to staffing a lunar orbiting Gateway, a small space station assembled with the Space Launch System (SLS) to house NASA astronauts launched in Orion capsules. Instead, the astronauts could live and work on the lunar surface, perhaps in underground habitats where they would be shielded from radiation. The Gateway could serve as a 24/7 communications relay for astronauts on the lunar surface as well as a supply depot, according to the report.

Hole that caused leak in Russian spacecraft possibly traced to assembly or testing (9/6): Russian news reports on Thursday suggest the small leak discovered in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) last week may have occurred during the final assembly or pre-launch testing of one of two Soyuz crew transport capsules docked to the six person orbiting science lab. A Russian commission is investigating the circumstances surrounding a two millimeter penetration discovered in the orbital compartment of the MS-09 Soyuz capsule. Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, who commanded the Soyuz flight to the Station plugged the leak, a repair that has held. The Station’s U.S., European and Russian crew was in no danger, according to NASA. TASS did not name its source.

Next RS-25 test dodges Gordon fires up on Thursday

Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne (9/6): With the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon earlier this week, engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center were able to proceed with a ground test firing of an upgraded version of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 rocket engine of the type that will power the first stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Four of the upgraded engines with a space shuttle heritage will power the SLS first stage. Thursday’s ground test spanned 500 seconds.


Space Science

Hayabusa 2 team sets dates for asteroid landings (9/6): Japan’s Hyabusa 2 spacecraft reached the asteroid Ryugu in June for the collection phase of its sample return mission. Next week, the spacecraft will descend to within 100 feet of the asteroid. Then, on September 21 two Japanese hopper landers are to descend to the asteroid’s surface, followed by a German/French lander on October 3. Hayabusa 2 is set to depart Ryugu late next year, with a return to Earth with samples of the asteroid slated for December 2020.

Kepler resumes operations despite malfunctioning thruster (9/6): NASA’s Kepler space telescope has begun its 19th campaign in the search for extra solar planets despite a problem with one of eight thrusters used to aim the spacecraft. The difficulty could be linked to Kepler’s diminishing fuel supply, which is soon to bring the telescope’s ground breaking mission to an end. Kepler, launched in March 2009, is credited with the discovery of 2,327 confirmed extra solar planet discoveries.

Curiosity surveys a mystery under dusty skies

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (9/6): Now at Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has resumed drilling rocks after experiencing difficulties with its drill earlier this year. The setback prompted engineers on Earth to devise a new rock drilling technique to help assess the planet’s past habitability, including the presence of liquid water.


Other News

India’s surprise plan to send people to space by 2022 (9/5): India has set an ambitious goal to send people to space by 2022. The mission and its short timeline — announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 August — surprised many, including the head of the country’s space agency. “It came as a surprise to us,” said Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Although Indian space enthusiasts have discussed sending people into orbit for more than a decade, the idea has not gained major political support until now.

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