Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 7th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The first European Space Agency (ESA) service module for NASA’s Orion crew capsule reached NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Tuesday. Tuesday’s U.S. mid-term congressional elections will bring changes to House and Senate committees responsible for NASA funding and space policy making.

Human Space Exploration

European-built service module arrives in U.S. for first Orion Moon mission

NASA (11/6): The first of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) service module contributions to NASA’s Orion crew capsules for human deep space exploration reached the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) from Bremen, Germany on Tuesday. The two components are to be joined for thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Glenn Research Center early next year, as part of the preparations for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first joint test flight of Orion and the Space Launch System (SLS). The service module provides in flight propulsion, solar power and life support for future Orion crews. The first uncrewed test flight is planned by mid-2020.

Russia reports computer bug on International Space Station (ISS)

AP via New York Times (11/6): Russia’s mission control reported a problem with one of three computers in the International Space Station’s (ISS) Russian segment on Tuesday. A reboot is planned for Thursday. The difficulty has not jeopardized the three member crew, NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Alexander Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.


Space Science

ICON launch update

NASA (11/7): Efforts to air launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) aboard a winged Pegasus XL rocket dropped from an L-1011 aircraft following takeoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, were scrubbed early Wednesday, while airborne. Thursday offers the next possible launch opportunity, if troubleshooting of off nominal data from the Pegasus rocket permits. ICON’s two year prime mission is to study activities in the Earth’s high altitude ionosphere influencing space as well as terrestrial weather.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe just made its first close pass by the Sun (11/6): NASA’s Parker Solar Probe made its first close pass by the Sun on Monday, coming within 15 million miles. Launched in August, Parker is to complete a total of two dozen of the close passes as it loops around the sun. The seven year mission to study the sun up close will eventually take the spacecraft within four million miles.

Exoplanets will need both continents and oceans to form complex life

Universe Today (11/5): A Harvard University led research effort concludes that planets beyond the Earth must have an agreeable balance between water and land masses if they are to host complex biospheres suitable for life.


Other News

Democrats win the House, Republicans keep the Senate (11/7): Tuesday’s U.S. mid-term election results include close outcomes that will mean changes in the leadership of House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over NASA spending and policy making. U.S. Rep. John Culberson, who chaired the House appropriations subcommittee responsible for NASA’s budget and a champion of flyby and lander missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa and opposed to cooperation in space with China, was defeated by his Democratic opponent. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who supports an extension of NASA’s supervision of the International Space Station (ISS) has won re-election. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, who agreed with Cruz on continued operations of the Space Station beyond a White House proposed 2025 deadline, lost his re-election bid to the U.S. Senate in a close race.

Russia’s soyuz-ST rocket with European weather satellite blasts off from Guiana

TASS of Russia (11/6): A Russian ST soyuz rocket lifted off from French Guiana late Tuesday to successfully place a European weather satellite into Earth orbit. It was the third launch of a rocket from the soyuz family since the October 11 launch abort with International Space Station (ISS) bound NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin that originated from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. None of the three subsequent soyuz launches originated from Baikonur, where pre-launch ground processing of the rocket was cited by Russian investigators as a cause of the abort about two minutes into flight. Hague and Ovchinin landed safely.

Former Google Lunar X-Prize teams still working on lunar landers (11/6): Two former Google Lunar X-Prize contenders, PT Scientists, of Germany, and Team Indus, of India, have not dropped efforts to develop commercial lunar landers. The long running competition to commercially land a mobile spacecraft on the lunar surface for data transmissions, was discontinued in March.

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