Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 15th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Apace Extra… Experts from the Russian and U.S. space agencies are investigating Thursday’s safe abort of a Soyuz crew transport mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with urgency. It’s unclear, however, how the incident will affect long standing plans to return the Station’s current three person crew to Earth and replace them with a Soyuz launch in mid-December. NASA has extended efforts to address a gyroscope issue aboard the Hubble Space Telescope to the Chandra X-ray space telescope. James Morhard has been confirmed as NASA’s deputy administrator.

Human Space Exploration

Bridenstine confident next Soyuz flight will take place as planned (10/12): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine believes Russia’s next Soyuz launch with cosmonauts and astronauts assigned to the International Space Station (ISS) will take place as planned, following last Thursday’s Soyuz launch abort with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Russia and NASA are investigating. The next Soyuz crew launch with U.S., Canadian and Russian Space Station crew members is planned for December 20, a week after U.S., European and Russian crew members aboard the Space Station since June are to descend to Earth.

Safety panel fears Soyuz failure could exacerbate commercial crew safety concerns

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (10/13): In a meeting of NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), members expressed concerns that efforts to re-instate a U.S. human launch capability with commercial companies may rise following the October 11 launch abort of a Russian Soyuz rocket launch to the International Space Station (ISS) with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Both men landed safely, but the ASAP session only hours after the incident heightened concerns over efforts by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its partners, Boeing and SpaceX, to carry out test flights next year leading to certifications and regular launches of astronauts to the orbiting science lab. Each company faces challenges.

International Space Station (ISS) crew has enough supplies for at least six months: Russian official

Reuters (10/14): The International Space Station’s three person crew has enough supplies to sustain them for at least six months, a key Russian flight operations official, Vladimir Solovyov, is quoted as telling Russian news agencies in the aftermath of the Soyuz MS-10 launch abort early last Thursday. The rocket’s problems could extend to launches of Russia’s Progress re-supply capsules to the Space Station. NASA and Japan also launch cargo to the Station.

Soyuz investigators hone in on booster separation, promise conclusions October 20 (10/12): Investigators late last week gathered debris from the plains of Kazakhstan, where it fell and scattered from the failed Russian Soyuz MS-10 launch on October 11. Without making final conclusions, Sergei Krikalev, Roscosmos director of manned spaceflight, noted that it appeared one of the four first stage boosters failed to separate correctly after liftoff and made contact with the Soyuz rocket’s second stage. Krikalev, a veteran cosmonaut, predicted an investigation into the incident might produce results by October 20.

Roscosmos official says leaving ISS crewless would be ‘undesirable’

TASS of Russia (10/12): Sergey Krikalev, Roscosmos executive director for manned programs, said Friday the Russian space agency will do all it can to avoid leaving the International Space Station (ISS) without a crew, while investigators probe Thursday’s failed Soyuz launch with U.S. and Russian crew members to the orbiting science lab. The Station is currently staffed by three U.S., Russian and European crew members, whose six month tour of duty is to end in mid-December. Typically, the Station is staffed with six astronauts.

China to launch unmanned test flight of next-generation crewed spacecraft in 2019 (10/12): China’s successor to the Shenzhou human spacecraft will be ready for an uncrewed test flight in 2019 as a payload on the first test launch of the Long March 5B rocket, which is to launch the modules for Beijing’s planned space station. Li Ming, vice president of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), spoke with on the scheduling.


Space Science

Another NASA space telescope has gone offline

Popular Mechanics (10/12): While NASA works a gyroscope issue to get the 28-year-old Hubble Space Telescope out of “safe mode” and back to science operations, the Chandra X-ray space telescope, launched in 1999, has gone off line after also experiencing an aging gyro problem. Spinning gyros point and steady both of the space telescopes for their observations of distant celestial objects.

Chandra X-ray telescope experiences a glitch; Hubble troubleshooting continues (10/12): Experts are working options for returning the Hubble Space Telescope to science operations. The preferred outcome to solving a gyroscope issue that surfaced October 5 is to resume three gyro operations. However, there is a procedure for returning to science operations with just one of the devices used to point and steady the space observatory as it observes distant targets. All six of the Hubble gyros were replaced by spacewalking astronauts during the final space shuttle servicing mission in May 2009.


Other News

NASA administrator statement on deputy administrator confirmation

NASA (10/12): The U.S. Senate last Thursday confirmed James Morhard as NASA’s deputy administrator. Administrator Jim Bridenstine offered his congratulations on Friday. Morhard is a former U.S. Senate deputy sergeant at arms. Add to that a statement from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA): “As a career public servant, Mr. Morhard brings considerable knowledge and expertise of the appropriations and legislative process that will prove helpful in his role as deputy administrator.”

Virgin Galactic preparing for next phase of SpaceShipTwo test flight program (10/13): Virgin anticipates another atmospheric test flight this year in its campaign to initiate a human suborbital spaceflight service, the company’s chief executive, George Whitesides, told the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) meeting in Las Cruces, N.M., last week. “We’ll do a variety of different things as we expand the envelope and try to understand abort scenarios and other things,” said Whitesides. “We have a lot of work still to go, but we’re making good progress.”


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of October 14-20, 2018 (10/14): The approaching 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing will be the focus of a Washington D.C. science writer’s conference on Monday.  On Thursday, a National Academies’ Space Technology Industry-Government-University Round table will feature a discussion on NASA’s technology initiatives. Meanwhile, the U.S. House and Senate are in recess until after the mid-term elections in November.

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