Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 10th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Orion capsule undergoes latest parachute recovery testing this week in the Arizona desert.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Orion’s parachutes tested under launch abort conditions (3/9): NASA exercised the descent parachute system for the Orion crew exploration capsule this week over the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Arizona. The test capsule, without crew, was dropped from a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft at an altitude of 25,000 feet to check out the chutes that would be deployed in the event of an Orion launch abort.

In a change of attitude, NASA appears to embrace private rockets

Ars Technica (3/9): William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, says the agency is prepared to incorporate emerging and existing launch vehicles from both industry and international partners with its cornerstone Space Launch System exploration rocket as it moves ahead with plans for human and robotic exploration of the solar system

SLS upper stage arrives at the Caps as the LETF tests its umbilicals (3/9): The second rocket stage for the inaugural launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) exploration rocket, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Kennedy is to serve as the launch site for the first flight. Originally targeted for late 2018 and unmanned, Exploration Mission-1 now has astronauts following a fast-paced assessment. The SLS will be paired with the Orion crew exploration capsule for a flight around the moon and back to Earth.


Space Science

NASA wins hide-and-seek game with lost lunar spacecraft

Inverse (3/9): Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have located the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, not heard from since 2009, as well as Chandrayaan-1, an Indian Space Research Organization probe that has been silent for more than seven years. Both spacecraft studied the lunar surface from orbits around the moon to lay the groundwork for future human exploration.

Looks like Matt Damon really could’ve grown potatoes on Mars

Mashable (3/9): Peruvian scientists, with help from NASA’s Ames Research Center, have demonstrated a potential to grow potatoes in Martian soil. The breakthrough tracks a theme from The Martian, a science based popular movie from 2015 about a U.S. astronaut stranded on the red planet and determined to survive.

Could mysterious cosmic light flashes be powering alien spacecraft? (3/9): Puzzling distant fast radio bursts might be the signature of alien spacecraft accelerating to tremendous velocities, according to a new study led by a researcher from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Just twenty or so of the tremendous bursts have been detected, all at great distances from the Earth.


Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Next Cygnus commercial space freighter christened the S.S. John Glenn (3/9): Orbital ATK’s seventh NASA contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station is planned for a March 19 lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It will be named for the late NASA astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Glenn died December 8. He was 95.

Bridenstine calls upon House appropriators to fund military space programs and FAA commercial space office 

Space News (3/9): On Thursday, Oklahoma congressman Jim Bridenstine asked fellow lawmakers for support on two fronts: an increase in military space spending and a larger budget for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Flight.

SpaceX still plans for first flight of a Falcon 9 with reused first stage this month

Bloomberg Technology (3/8): SpaceX is sticking with plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with a used first stage for the first time this month. The company also plans to launch five more of the once used stages on missions this year, company president Gwynne Shotwell said this week at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington.

Billionaire Paul Allen hopes his ‘ginormous’ Stratolaunch plane will fly this year

Geekwire (3/9): The twin fuselage Stratolaunch plane with its 385 foot wingspan is being assembled by Scaled Composites in Mojave, California, on a pace to take flight for the first time this year. The big aircraft is to air launch rockets with payloads into orbit. Orbital ATK is developing a solid fuel rocket that will be air lifted and released for ignition. Paul Allen, chief investor in Stratolaunch, is co-founder of Microsoft.

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