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Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 5th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Record setting NASA astronaut Christina Koch plus European and Russian International Space Station (ISS) crew members are set to descent to Earth early Thursday. The discussion over what NASA should do at the Moon continues. NASA pursues robotic in space hardware assembly.

Human Space Exploration

Record-breaking astronaut Christina Koch talks female space records and more
Space.com (2/4): NASA astronaut Christina Koch, on her first trip to space, is due back on Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) early Thursday after 328 days, a record for women, and second in duration only to retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s 340 days, the record for a single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut. On October 18, Koch also joined NASA astronaut Jessica Meir for the first all-female spacewalk. Eager to return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, Koch said she would welcome an opportunity to launch again. Thursday’s landing in Kazakhstan is planned for 4:12 a.m., EST, and will be broadcast on NASA TV and streamed at www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

NASA grants KBR the right to train private astronauts at NASA facilities
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space
Space Daily (2/4): KBR will become the first company to train private astronauts at NASA facilities. The company recently signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) allowing it to provide human spaceflight operation services to commercial companies. KBR currently holds the only agreement with NASA to provide these services using the agency’s facilities and capabilities. Through this agreement, KBR will be able to train private astronauts in a wide variety of spaceflight tasks including operating onboard International Space Station (ISS) systems, integrating into the existing ISS crew, performing routine operational tasks, maintaining health and performance, and responding to emergencies. KBR will also provide medical operations and services prior to, during, and after spaceflights.

Space Science

Europa Clipper seeking savings as cost reserves plummet
SpaceNews.com (2/4): Years from launch and still in development, NASA’s Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon Europa has consumed cost reserves at a concerning rate, and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is assessing strategies to bring the reserve up from 12 percent to 20 percent, according to a presentation provided the Outer Planets Assessment Group earlier this week. The $4.25 billion mission is to carry out a series of close flybys of Europa to assess possible habitability and provide reconnaissance for a potential follow on lander mission. Still in discussion is whether the launch, possibly in 2025, should be atop a NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket or a commercial alternative.

China’s lunar rover travels 367 meters on Moon’s far side
Xinhuanet of China (2/3): Once again, darkness has fallen across the lunar south pole landing site of China’s Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu-2 rover. It was January 3, 2019 that the spacecraft carried out the first ever soft landing on the Moon’s far side on the Von Karmen crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Designed to operate just three months, Yutu-2 has driven more than 367 meters and will awaken in about two weeks from the latest dormant period that began as darkness settled in late last week.

Starlink vs. the astronomers
SpaceNews.com (2/4): On the evening of January 6, a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral and, an hour later, deployed its payload: 60 Starlink satellites. Those satellites joined 120 other satellites launched last May and November as SpaceX seeks to accelerate deployment of its initial broadband constellation, putting as many as 1,500 such satellites into orbit in 2020 alone. About 36 hours after deployment, those satellites were visible to any attendees of the 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Honolulu who ventured outside in the predawn hours January 8.

Other News

U.S. Space Force organizational plan delivered to Congress
SpaceNews.com (2/4): Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on Monday delivered to congressional leaders the first comprehensive proposal for how the U.S. Space Force will be organized as a separate military branch under the Department of the Air Force. The report was mandated by Congress in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that President Trump signed on December 20.

Maxar selected by NASA to deliver robotic arm for lunar lander, extends leadership in space robotics
Coalition Member in the News – Maxar Technologies
Business Wire (2/4): NASA has entered a $5 million contract with Maxar Technologies, of Westminster, Colorado, to provide a robot arm for exploration of the lunar surface. A future commercial lunar lander is to be equipped with the Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering and Probing of Lunar Regolith, or SAMPLR arm. 

OneWeb joins the satellite Internet gold rush this week
Ars Technica (2/4): Like SpaceX, OneWebb is launching a large constellation of small satellites for internet connection. However, it’s using Soyuz rockets launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for its venture. Thirty-four satellites are scheduled to liftoff on Thursday at 4:42 p.m., EST.

An upcoming mission is going to assemble and manufacture a communications antenna and beam in space
Universe Today (2/4): NASA’s Tipping Point program has produced Dragonfly, also known as the Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot, or SPIDER. SPIDER is to be a demonstration of in space hardware assembly, a capability that could reduce launch costs and risks. As part of NASA’s planned RESTORE-L spacecraft, SPIDER will robotically assemble a communications antenna with a composite beam for Ka band communications. Tethers Unlimited is developing the technology for the beam portion of the robot arm.

ISRO’s Gaganyaan to facilitate space tourism
Space Daily (2/4): Gaganyaan, the country’s planned mission to take humans to space, will open huge commercial opportunities in the space sector, said former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair. Nair while speaking at the space programme, supported by the Kerala government, here said once that capability is achieved by putting three astronauts into space using ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in December 2021, the country can think in terms of entering the realm of space tourism.

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