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Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 16th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch conducted a successful spacewalk Wednesday to equip the International Space Station (ISS) with new batteries. The Space Launch System (SLS) core stage is at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi beginning a series of tests leading up to a “green run” ground test firing later this year. Engineers declare Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner in good shape after its first orbital test flight in December. 

Human Space Exploration

Astronauts upgrade space station batteries in second all-woman spacewalk
Space.com (1/15): NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch conducted a 7 1/2 hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) early Wednesday to upgrade ISS’s solar power system batteries. Efforts to replace 12 older nickel hydrogen batteries with six more efficient lithium ion versions were interrupted in October by the failure of a battery charge/discharge unit. Meir and Koch are scheduled to team again for a spacewalk on Monday to complete the final battery exchanges.

SLS Core Stage arrives at Stennis for Green Run campaign
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
NASAspaceflight.com (1/15): After a trip by barge from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the first Space Launch System (SLS) core stage arrived at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi last weekend, where it will spend the majority of this year preparing for a full duration firing of the 212 foot long core’s four RS-25 main engines. The critical test would happen in late summer, if there are no significant weather delays and preparations and other tests unfold as anticipated. Then, it’s on to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), where the core is to be part of Artemis 1, an uncrewed test launch of the SLS and Orion crew capsule.

This year may finally fulfill the promise of private human spaceflight
Coalition Member in the News – Astrobotic, Boeing, Dynetics, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (1/15): Potential 2020 milestones include NASA certifications for Boeing and SpaceX to initiate the regular contracted launches of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) with the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft and on the suborbital front tourist flights aboard Virgin Galactic’s winged SpaceShipTwo and perhaps Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable rocket. 2020 promises more, including plans by multiple countries to launch Mars missions this summer and the launching of rockets designed for small satellite missions.

Boeing expects ‘minimal refurbishment’ on reusable Starliner crew capsule
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Spaceflightnow.com (1/15): Initial assessments indicate that Boeing’s reusable CST-100 Starliner weathered its shortened December 20-22 orbital flight test well and will likely require minimal refurbishment to launch again. A software issue that is under review prevented post launch orbit raising maneuvers that were to lead to an ISS docking as part of a planned eight day test flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The capsule landed successfully at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and was transported back to Boeing facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). 

Weather excellent for critical SpaceX Crew Dragon launch and in-flight abort
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Florida Today (1/15): Favorable weather is forecast for Saturday’s planned launch abort test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). No astronauts will be aboard for the planned 8 a.m. liftoff intended to demonstrate the capsule’s ability to safely pull away from the rocket in the event of a malfunction and descend under parachute back to Earth. The test flight is a key milestone in efforts by SpaceX to achieve certification under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Space Science

NASA tests new Moon rover’s moves in lunar lab
USA Today (1/15): NASA is ground testing the mobility of VIPER, a robotic rover about the size of a golf cart designed to explore the south pole of the Moon in search of water ice, a potential resource for human explorers and a source of liquid hydrogen and oxygen rocket propellants.

Mapping the cosmic journey of phosphorus with Rosetta and ALMA
European Space Agency (1/15): How might the element phosphorus found in DNA and cell membranes make its way to Earth?  ESA’s Rosetta mission to the Comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko and observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile may offer an explanation. Phosphorus is forged in star forming regions and transported away in comets. Phosphorus monoxide transported to an early Earth may have played a crucial role in the formation of life. 

NASA, NOAA analyses reveal 2019 second warmest year on record
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (1/15): Globally, 2019 was the second warmest year on record, behind 2016, according to climate models and statistical analysis by NASA and NOAA that points to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as the cause. Studies provided Wednesday suggest the warming trend due to human activity is unlikely to reverse. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies contributed significantly to the assessment.

Other News

Orbital debris mitigation guidelines still useful, if complied with
SpaceNews.com (1/15): Jan Woerner, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) director general, spoke in favor of a reduction in the current 25 year guideline for deorbiting inactive satellites during a news briefing from the agency’s Paris headquarters earlier this week. The 25 year mark remains in a U.S. guideline updated in December. Some have called for a 5 to 10 year mark in light of the growing number of satellites being launched. “We have to work in a shorter period,” said Woerner. At an earlier event in the Washington area, J.C. Liou, chief scientist for NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, backed the 25-year restriction as cost effective.

Argentine smallsats hitch ride with Chinese payloads on Long March rocket
Spaceflightnow.com (1/15): A pair of Argentine small Earth imaging small satellites accompanied two larger Chinese Earth observing satellites launched aboard a Chinese Long March 2 rocket on Wednesday, local time.

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