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Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 14th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is preparing for another major flight test milestone early Saturday. The competition for a place in NASA’s human lunar lander development initiative grows. 

Human Space Exploration

Dynetics teams up with Sierra Nevada Corp. for NASA’s big lunar lander competition
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Dynetics
GeekWire.com (1/13): Dynetics, of Huntsville, Alabama, is teaming with Sierra Nevada and others yet to be identified, to compete for a human lunar landing system collaboration with NASA. Blue Origin and Boeing and possibly SpaceX are among those also competing for the work, according to the report. As part of Artemis, NASA’s accelerated effort to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024, the landers would shuttle astronauts between a lunar orbiting Gateway and the surface of the Moon as the space agency develops a sustainable presence.

Crew Dragon faces its last big test before human spaceflight on Saturday
Ars Technica (1/13): Saturday’s four hour launch window for the inflight abort test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon opens at 8 a.m., EST. After launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the unpiloted Crew Dragon will rise to 20 kilometers altitude, or about 13 miles, when a collection of eight thrusters are to fire and pull the capsule safely away for a parachute descent and rapid recovery. The test flight is a critical part of certification for the regular transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Space Science

Balancing astronomical visions with budgetary realities
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
The Space Review (1/13): Efforts to prepare the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for launch in March 2021 are going well, according to a town hall discussion of progress at last week’s American Astronomical Society conference in Honolulu. That’s after a delay in plans to launch in October 2018 due to technical and cost issues. “Although the schedule margin looks a little tight up there,” said NASA JWST program scientist Eric Smith, referring to a schedule chart for the mission, “we do remain within our budget and we are planning to the March 2021 launch readiness date.” The designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is undergoing pre-launch checkouts and preparation at Northrop Grumman facilities in California.

A Mars sample-return mission is coming. Scientists want the public to know what to expect
Space.com (1/13): The planned July launch of NASA’s 2020 Mars rover is just the beginning of a lengthy new adventure to study whether Mars once hosted some form of life, and possibly still does. Slated to land at Jezero Crater on Mars, an ancient lake and river delta, in February, Mars 2020 will drill into rocks and soil, study the samples on site and cache others for eventual return to Earth, where they can be studied with state of the art technologies. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working on plans to launch spacecraft to begin retrieval of the samples, starting in 2026.

NASA’s Mars2020 rover closer to getting its name
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1/13): NASA has chosen names submitted by 155 students from across the U.S. as semifinalists in a competition to name NASA’s Mars2020 rover. In all, more than 28,000 essay submissions were received. A panel of judges will select nine finalists and late this month the public will be asked to vote. The winner will be announced in March and invited to attend the liftoff from Florida’s Space Coast in July.

Lucy mission overview: Journey to explore the Trojan asteroids (video)
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (1/13): Planned for a late 2021 launch, NASA’s Lucy mission spacecraft will survey close up a collection of asteroids that lead or trail giant Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. Scientists are hopeful they will learn more about the formation of the solar system from these left over fragments, potentially the origin of the organic materials that led to life on Earth.

Other News

Study confirms climate models are getting future warming projections right
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1/9): Most climate models, which predict how the global environment responds to rising levels of carbon dioxide, dating back to the 1970’s, have proven quite accurate, according to a new evaluation. The assessment was led by a University of California, Berkeley researcher and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “The results of this study of past climate models bolster scientists’ confidence that both they as well as today’s more advanced climate models are skillfully projecting global warming,” said study co-author Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.  

Space junk: How cluttered is the final frontier?
National Public Radio (1/13): With the first satellite launch, Russia’s Sputnik in 1957, the low Earth orbit realm began to fill with manufactured debris, or space junk. Ever more of the debris is expected to accumulate as commercial space activities increase, posing a threat to operational satellites as well as human outposts like the International Space Station (ISS). The number of objects in orbit, including satellites, rocket bodies is about 20,000, with about 90 percent non-operational and all tracked by the Department of Defense (DoD). Efforts are just beginning to actively clean up the growing threat.

UAE Space Agency and Krypto Labs launch UAE NewSpace Innovation Program
Satelliteprome.com (1/11): The UAE Space Agency and Krypto Labs, an innovation incubator, have joined to launch the UAE NewSpace Innovation Program to spur the growth of commercial space startups. Selected applicants will participate in three month programs with access to potential investors.

You can’t take the sky from me
The Space Review (1/13): Astronomers are among the first to pay a price for a lack of discipline regarding the planned deployments of hundreds of small communications satellites to provide global internet links, according to an op-ed. Author Arwen Rimmer, of England, argues a growing chaos in low Earth orbit could impact radio as well as optical astronomy and other pursuits.

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