Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 12th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA and its contract team are moving ahead on multiple fronts to achieve a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. A  U.S. branch of the military focused on space moves closer to reality.

Human Space Exploration

Artemis updates (10/9): Author Jim Hillhouse offers a look at the progress made in the development of key hardware and systems elements of NASA’s Artemis initiative, including the Orion capsule, Space Launch System (SLS) and abort strategies.

Watch SpaceX Dragon launch pad escape system testing (8/9): As part of the safety preparations for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program missions, the agency is updating the space shuttle slide wire escape system at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A, which is planned for use by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The slide wire angles about 1,200 feet from the pad’s 265 foot level to the ground, a bunker and armored vehicle. In an emergency, astronauts and ground crews board an elevated basket for the slide to safety.

Space Science

NASA’s next big space telescope aces key mirror test (video)
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (8/11): The secondary mirror for the NASA-led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has successful passed a milestone deployment test at Northrop Grumman facilities in California. The test demonstrated electrical as well as mechanical connections for the launch and post launch deployment of the observatory designated as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Liftoff is planned for March 2021.

Jupiter’s great red spot is behaving strangely
The Atlantic (8/9): The strange behavior amateur astronomers have noted recently at one of the solar system’s most famous landmarks, Jupiter’s giant red spot, may not be so strange after all.

Life may be common in the Milky Way, thanks to comet swapping (8/10): As stars like the sun occasionally pass close to one another as they move through space, it’s possible they exchange comets potentially distributing the ingredients for life found on planets like the Earth, according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

Perseid meteor shower peaks Monday, Tuesday nights
Washington Post (8/11): The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks Monday and Tuesday nights, possibly offering up to 50 sightings per hour. Though known for their brightness, the best viewing is away from big city lights. The source is debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Other News

NASA calls on students to submit proposals for Moon and Mars missions (8/10): NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concept seeks proposals from graduate and undergraduate students to enhance the agency’s Artemis initiative, which is to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024 and prepare for the exploration of Mars. The deadline for proposals is March 5, 2020.

With congressional blessing, Space Force is closer to launch
National Public Radio (8/10): The concept of a new branch of the U.S. military focused on space is moving closer to reality, as Russia, China and most recently India have demonstrated capabilities to destroy satellites. The U.S. House and Senate must come together on the White House initiative as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The timing and name, Space Corps under the House version and Space Force under the Senate’s, remain to be worked out. However, the space branch would become part of the U.S. Air Force, much like the Marine Corps became part of the U.S. Navy.

From satellites to the Moon and Mars, China is quickly becoming a space superpower
Time (8/11): China’s growing space focus extends from the world’s largest radio telescope to plans for a base at the Moon’s south pole, an Earth orbiting space station, space tourism and the commercial satellite market. Like NASA, Europe and Russia, China plans to launch a planetary science mission to Mars in the summer of 2020, when the next favorable launch opportunity arrives. Earlier this year, China became the first to soft land on the Moon’s far side with the Change’4 lander and Jade Rabbit 2 rover. Since 2014, the Chinese military and private investors have teamed to encourage a civil space infrastructure. “There’s every chance that China, as the ultimate disruptor, will do to the commercial space industry what it has already managed with manufacturing: cut costs, boost efficiency and storm into a lead,” writes Time.

Chinese space startup revs up for reusable rocket race
Reuters (8/10): Startup LinkSpace of China is moving out with testing to develop a reusable rocket to compete in the global satellite launch market. Like others, China envisions constellations of small satellites for communications.

It’s show-and-tell time again for Virgin Galactic in New Mexico
Parabolic Arc (8/10): Virgin Galactic, the suborbital passenger company, has announced plans to transfer its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California to Spaceport America in New Mexico, where it has planned to be the anchor tenant for several years. Virgin has not announced when the six passenger SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity will follow, but the company has indicated previously that commercial passenger flights could begin launching from New Mexico next year.

Russia invents self-destroying satellite to resolve space debris problem
Sputnik News (8/10): Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, has acquired a patent to help alleviate the growing accumulation of man-made debris in Earth orbit. The patent is for a self-destructive satellite material that can transition from a solid to a vapor. The transition could be triggered with a signal to a no longer active satellite from Earth.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of August 11-24, 2019 (8/11): The U.S. House and Senate remain in recess until September 9, with many budgetary issues still to be settled prior to the October 1 start of the 2020 fiscal year. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will discuss the status of the Artemis 1 Space Launch System (SLS) core stage development on Thursday from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and the National Space Council plans its sixth public meeting on August 20. NASA astronauts are to spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on August 21 to install a second International Docking Adapter. The adapter will permit automated dockings of NASA Commercial Crew Program partner spacecraft, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as they begin to regularly transport astronauts to and from the six person Station.

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