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Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 3rd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Cynus leaves the International Space Station for new mission in orbit. Solar Orbiter, a mission two decades in the making, will launch from Cape Canaveral as soon as February 9. Washington Post editorial board comments on shifting destinations and presidential direction and its negative impact on NASA.

Human Space Exploration

Cygnus cargo ship leaves International Space Station (ISS), begins new mission in orbit
Coalition Members in the News – NanoRacks, Northrop Grumman
Space.com (2/1): Early Friday, Northrop Grumman’s latest NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), its 12th overall and first under a second round of contracts between NASA and Northrop Grumman, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada, departed the six person orbiting science laboratory for an extended mission. First up prior to a destructive February 29 atmospheric re-entry were deployments of small satellites using NanoRacks and SlightShot deployers. Northrop is readying another cargo mission launch to the Space Station on February 9 from Wallops Island, Virginia.

AFRL, Blue Origin partner for lunar lander engine development
Dayton Daily News of Ohio (1/31): The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Blue Origin have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to provide a test facility for Blue Origin’s BE-7 rocket engine for a lunar lander. The BE-7 engine is a planned 10,000-pound-thrust, high performance rocket engine for in space applications, including Blue Origins’ lunar lander. The new AFRL test capabilities will support various development, qualification and production acceptance tests, which are to be funded by Blue Origin.

Historic dual-habitat mock Mars mission begins in the Utah desert
Space.com (1/30): Last week, the Mars Society initiated a 12 person, two week Mars exploration simulation mission in the desert of southern Utah. For the first time in the history of these simulations, the Mars Society has assigned some of the participants to a habitat and some to a Mars Desert Research Station.

Space Science

We are entering the Golden Age of studying our Sun
Ars Technica (2/1): Scientists on Earth are assembling ground and space-based assets to study the workings of the sun as never before. Following a recent test image release, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, in Hawaii, is set to begin routine observations this summer. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which was launched in 2018 is sweeping closer to the sun than any other spacecraft to study the processes within the high temperature corona that generate the solar wind. The European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA Solar Orbiter, which will complement the work of the Solar Telescope and Parker Solar Probe, is set to launch as soon as Sunday night, February 9, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Decades in the making, Solar Orbiter finally meets launcher at Cape Canaveral
Coalition Member in the News — United Launch Alliance
Spaceflightnow.com (2/1): The European Space Agency (ESA) led Solar Orbiter mission, set for launch Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5, has been two decades in the making. The spacecraft is equipped to observe the poles of the sun, their holes and emissions, closer than any previous mission.

Pluto’s hazy atmosphere is similar to that of Titan
Spaceflightinsider.com (2/2): During a presentation before the American Astronomical Society in Hawaii last month, a member of NASA’s New Horizons mission science team presented a study comparing the hazy atmospheres of Pluto; Triton, the large moon of Neptune; and Titan, the large moon of Saturn. Pluto’s and Titan’s appear to produce organic molecules.

Op Ed

NASA keeps falling victim to presidential whims
Washington Post Editorial Board (1/31): Administration after administration has been directing NASA to pursue deep space objectives, the Moon, an asteroid and Mars, each challenging technically and costly. As new administrations come to power in Washington, the challenging goals change, adding more cost and schedule.

Other News

Xplore teams up with NanoRacks for commercial deep space exploration
Coalition Member in the News – NanoRacks
Tech Crunch (1/29): Xplore is building spacecraft capable of carrying small payloads (between roughly 70-150 lbs) to deep space destinations. These could include sensors, including optical cameras, tools for measuring temperature and other space weather conditions, hyperspectral imaging tools, or even other, smaller spacecraft on behalf of a range of commercial clients. Xplore’s spacecraft can hold multiple payloads, and NanoRacks will be able to use their experience to help prepare and integrate the cargo of Xplore’s clients, making it possible to launch more rapidly and more efficiently with less lead time required.

Commerce Department moves ahead on space traffic management work despite limited budget
SpaceNews.com (1/31): It’s time for a greater focus among policy makers and appropriators on civil space traffic management, according to Kevin O’Connell, director of the Office of Space Commerce, who spoke last week at the annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington. His interview remarks coincided with the predicted “near collision” (close pass) of two defunct NASA and U.S. Air Force satellites high above Pittsburgh late on January 29. 

Pentagon report: DoD needs to test how satellites would perform under attack
SpaceNews.com (2/1): The Pentagon plans a major investment in space assets over the coming decade. In an annual report, Robert Behler, director operational test and evaluation for the Department of Defense (DoD) calls for an assessment of how those assets could fare if they come under attack.

Space executive says the industry needs help to understand cyber threats
SpaceNews.com (1/30): Richard Leshner, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Planet Federal, warns most commercial satellite system operations appear ill prepared to deal with the cybersecurity threat. Leshner spoke at last week’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington.

ISRO readying low-cost launch vehicles
Asian News International of India (1/31): On Friday, the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced it will pursue a low cost satellite launch capability in order to increase its share of the commercial space market.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of February 2-8, 2020
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Spacepolicyonline.com (2/2): In Washington, President Trump is to deliver the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. A day later the Senate is to wrap up impeachment proceedings. Several space policy assessment groups meet this week: The Outer Planets Assessment Group, Lunar Exploration Analysis Group and NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP. ASAP’s deliberations on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program could be especially timely as Boeing and SpaceX pursue the final test flight activities to achieve certifications of the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon to restart the launch of astronauts from the U.S. On Thursday, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, joined by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov are to depart the International Space Station (ISS) for Earth, descending into remote Kazakhstan to end a 328 day mission for Koch, the longest ever trip to space by a woman.  

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