Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 7th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA faces challenges with new human spaceflight leadership. A deeper assessment of potential lunar resources could be valuable for Earth. Northrop Grumman’s NASA contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) reach a milestone. Communications satellites launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida and French Guiana on Tuesday.

Human Space Exploration

Cygnus supply ship departs Space Station, begins extended mission
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (8/6): Northrop Grumman’s 11th NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) departed the six person orbiting science lab on Tuesday, bringing the company’s initial Commercial Resupply Services agreement with the agency to an end. The company’s Cygnus cargo freighter, launched in April, will continue to orbit the Earth into December supporting small satellite launches as well as the NASA technology demonstration of a small satellite equipped to inspect the exterior of Cygnus up close and image the spacecraft for signs of external damage that can be stored and transmitted to Earth. Cygnus has some similarities to the small habitation component Northrop Grumman has been selected by NASA to provide for the future lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway.

With Gerstenmaier gone, decision to fly NASA astronauts may be more contentious
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Ars Technica (8/6): Coming changes in the leadership of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate with the reassignment of agency veteran Bill Gerstenmaier could mean some difficult final decision making when it comes to the first crewed launches of U.S. commercial spacecraft transporting astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and moving deeper into space aboard Orion. “Bill was recognized by everybody as being technically well grounded and very astute. He was known to listen carefully, and to make his judgments based on good technical reasons,” notes Wayne Hale, former Space Shuttle Program Manager and a NASA advisor. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said a replacement will be named soon.

SpaceX clips Dragon’s wings after investigation
Hackaday (8/5): SpaceX’s long term vision for landing its Dragon capsules softly on land and planetary surfaces with thrusters and landing legs dimmed and must await further technology development and testing, following an April incident at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, involving the spacecraft’s SuperDraco thrusters. An explosion is believed to have been triggered by a leaky check valve that allowed hypergolic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide to make unwanted contact. A new valve design is being implemented. 

The International Lunar Decade: A strategy for sustainable development – Op Ed
The Space Review (8/6): The presence of water ice at the poles of the Moon and possibly metallic deposits at the south pole Aitken Basin are drawing growing interest from the Earth’s space powers. Might there be resources on the Moon of value to life on Earth, or might those resources make possible human exploration deeper into the solar system? A campaign proposed for the 2020’s, the International Lunar Decade, would be focused on pinning down the potential for lunar industrial development, possibly something essential to dealing with terrestrial population growth and climate change, writes Vidvuds Beldavs, a space strategist at the University of Latvia.

Space Science

Solar sailing, at long last
The Space Review (8/5): After decades of difficulty, the Planetary Society succeeded in launching Light Sail 2, a mission to demonstrate whether the force of light from the sun could raise the orbit altitude of a small satellite. Nearly a month after its Jun 25 launch as one of two dozen payloads on the Pentagon’s Space Test Program-2 mission, the Planetary Society claimed success, first at deploying the small satellite’s boxing ring sized light sail on July 23 and raising the orbit 1.7 kilometers within four days.

Other News

OneWeb founder Wyler calls for responsible smallsat operations (8/6): In remarks before the Conference on Small Satellites underway this week at Utah State University, Greg Wyler, founder of the mega constellation broadband service OneWeb, urged the small satellite industry to respect fears that failed satellites lingering in orbit and collisions could trigger strict government oversight. “To not sit and think about longer-term ramifications of what you’re doing is just irresponsible,” he said.

Intelsat 39 and EDRS-C launched from French Guiana (8/6): An Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket placed U.S. and British telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbits Tuesday, following a successful launch from French Guiana.

SpaceX successfully launches Israeli-owned telecom satellite (8/6): The Israeli Amos 17 communications satellite was lofted into geostationary transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, atop a Falcon 9 rocket Tuesday night. Spacecom’s Amos 16 satellite was destroyed prior to a pre-launch test firing of a Falcon 9 in September 2016.

+ (8/6): Impressive growth in the small satellite market over the past decade is expected to grow even more over the next five years. But it may then stabilize until a second generation of the spacecraft is needed for launch. The consultants Econsult offered their outlook at the Small Satellite Conference underway this week at Utah State University.

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