Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 16th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Trump administration’s first federal budget supports continued development of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion capsule, both cornerstones of future U.S. human deep space exploration, and advances public/private partnerships.


Human Deep Space Exploration

Trump budget request kills ARM, supports SLS/Orion and public private partnerships (3/16): NASA’s 2018 fiscal year budget supports continued development of the Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle, though specific human deep space destinations are not addressed. The Obama administration’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission, a two-phase robotic/human endeavor to acquire a large boulder from an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon is eliminated. The proposed budget would halt efforts to reach the surface of the Jovian moon Europa with a robotic lander and close the agency’s office of education, according to a analysis of top-line federal budget totals acquired by the Washington Post. Earth science mission spending declines as well, but not as much as some opponents of the move predicted. NASA’s top-line would fall slightly to $19.1 billion for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Now, Congress must respond to a spending plan that also encourages public/private partnerships to advance exploration.

Aldrin: Pence offered few details of space policy in White House meeting

Space News (3/15): Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin met with Vice President Mike Pence last week in Washington, however, the vice president and potential head of a revived cabinet-level National Space Council did not hint at the pillars of a future U.S. space policy, according to Aldrin. The former NASA astronaut said Pence took note of some suggestions and offers for assistance. “I felt very good at the end of the meeting, and I hope he did too,” said Aldrin during an appearance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin this week. The Apollo 11 moon walker champions a permanent human settlement on Mars.

SpaceX’s 2018 Moon mission faces significant challenges

Spaceflight Insider (3/15): In spite of its many commercial successes, SpaceX faces some hurdles in Elon Musk’s quest to launch two passengers around the moon and back to Earth in the Dragon 2 spacecraft. Among them, SpaceX has yet to launch a human on the capsule currently under development as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Falcon Heavy launch vehicle awaits its inaugural launch at some point this year as well.


Space Science

Distant galaxies lack dark matter, study suggests

Science News (3/15): Mysterious dark matter may comprise a hefty amount of the known universe, but try finding it around the most distant galaxies.

Comet 41P/T-G-K Greens Up For St. Paddy’s Day

Sky and Telescope (3/15): Friday is St. Patrick’s Day, a moment when “green” reigns. With binoculars, it should be possible to celebrate by spotting comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, its greenish tones potentially visible almost all night from most of the Earth’s northern hemisphere.

Goodbye, Mimas! Saturn moon stuns in Cassini’s final photo shoot (3/15): Heavily cratered Mimas is Saturn’s smallest moon. The joint NASA, European and Italian space agency Cassini mission spacecraft, in orbit around the ringed planet for more than a decade, just gathered its final close-up photographs of the distant moon.


Low Earth Orbit

SpaceDataHighway to add third node for global coverage

Space News (3/15): The European SpaceDataHighway is expected to obtain its third geo-synchronous satellite data relay link by 2020 or 2021 thanks to Airbus, the French based aerospace company. The third spacecraft promises to make the laser communications system between Earth observation and military satellites and ground stations almost global, according to the report.


Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

ULA: OA-7 confirmed for launch on March 24, WGS-9 set for March 18

Spaceflight Insider (3/16): Orbital ATK and NASA set March 24 at 9 p.m., EDT, for the launch of the company’s seventh contracted re-supply mission to the International Space Station. The planned lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, has slipped from March 19 to March 21, and then March 24 in response to a hydraulic system issue that surfaced with the United Space Alliance Alas 5 launch vehicle. NASA and Orbital note the OA-7 launch could advance to March 23, depending on other upcoming scheduled launches under jurisdiction of the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Range.

Firefly Space Systems assets to be sold

Space News (3/15): Startup Fire Fly Space Systems, formed to fill a void in the small satellite launch market, will sell at auction, according to the report. Financial problems are cited.



Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans crewed launch within a year (3/15): “We’re trying to get to our first human flights within the next year. That’s a laser focus for the team right now,” Erika Wagner, Blue Origin’s business development manager, told an audience assembled for MIT’s New Space Age Conference last weekend. The Kent, Washington, based company plans suborbital passenger missions for research and tourism.


Space Policy
Commentary | Commercial space innovation needs more government certainty

Space News (3/15): Private sector space technology innovation has begun to outpace capabilities of regulatory agencies like NOAA and the FAA to keep pace, cautions Brian Weeden, of Secure World Foundation, in an op-ed. Weeden expresses concerns for two recent actions by the Trump administration that make the challenges more difficult, a hiring freeze on all non-military federal positions and an executive action requiring federal agencies to remove two regulations for each new one they impose — with some exceptions for military, national security and foreign affairs matters.




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