Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 30th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Veterans of U.S. human spaceflight focus on reuse and affordability, just two of the issues confronting NASA and its contractor teams as they transition from low Earth orbit to deep space exploration. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe sets a record it’s likely to surpass again.

Human Space Exploration

Reuse and sustainability in deep space exploration (10/29): NASA and its policy makers got it right when they chose an expendable approach for the Space Launch System (SLS) for human deep space exploration rather than reuse, explains Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for exploration systems, in an op-ed. While attractive for less ambitious pursuits, achieving reusability for the SLS would carry payload and production penalties counter to the objectives of human exploration well beyond the Earth, he writes.

SLS contractor gets real, says program needs to focus on “affordability”

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman

Ars Technica (10/29): Last week’s Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, produced a discussion among representatives from four veteran NASA prime contractors for the development of hardware crucial to past and future human space flight. One, Northrop Grumman’s Charles Precourt, a former NASA shuttle astronaut and now vice president and general manager for propulsion at Northrop, sounded a concern over future costs, stating that all involved in the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion must be concerned about affordability as well as survivability and sustainability as they move into production.


Space Science

A NASA spacecraft just broke the record for closest approach to sun (10/29): On Monday, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe established a new record for spacecraft proximity to the sun, 26.55 million miles. The $1.5 billion, seven-year mission launched August 12 to carry out the closest observations of the sun’s function yet attempted, activities that ripple across the solar system.

NASA ‘supersonic’ parachute for Mars mission sets world record

USA Today (10/29): The record deployment of a tightly packed parachute was logged as part of the landing strategy for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission, which is to gather samples of the Martian soil and rock for a follow on mission to return the materials to Earth for analysis. The Mars 2020 launch, planned for mid-2020, would lead to a Mars landing of the rover in February 2021. The parachute, made of synthetic materials, deployed in 4/10ths of a second after a test launch.

The final days of NASA’s Dawn (10/28): NASA’s long running mission to a pair of asteroid belt destinations, Vesta and now Ceres, is coming to a successful close as the spacecraft launched in 2007 runs out of fuel. Dawn will continue to orbit Ceres for decades, avoiding an impact that might contaminate a planetary environment that is potentially habitable.


Other News

How to inspire the next generation to push the boundaries of space? (10/29): The $1 million Base 11 Space Challenge ( will help to ensure no one is left out of the commercial space boom, writes Leland Melvin, former NASA astronaut, engineer, education specialist, in an op-ed. The challenge prize goes to the university team able to build and launch a liquid fueled rocket to the edge of space.

Blue Origin will be landing its rockets on a used cargo ship. It’ll get converted in time for first flights in 2021

Universe Today (10/28): Blue Origin intends to recover the first stage of its New Glenn rockets, following launches from Florida’s Space Coast, for refurbishment and future launches. Recently, Blue acquired a well-traveled Danish cargo vessel, the Stena Freighter, for conversion to a landing platform.

The Air Force is actually considering rocket launches to move cargo around the globe

Popular Mechanics (10/29): A top U.S. Air Force official has confirmed the service is looking at the possibility of augmenting its fleet of cargo aircraft with rocket launch capabilities that could transport cargo anywhere in the world within an hour. So far, the topic has been one for discussion, and the Air Force has not invested money. Companies of interest include SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Orbital, according to the report.

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