Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 9th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Last week’s Washington forum, America’s Future in Civil Space, has experts discussing the best way of achieve familiar objectives, including moving human explorers beyond low Earth orbit.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Revisiting America’s future in civil space

The Space Review (5/8): The concept of public-private partnerships in space flourished with a change in White House administrations in 2009. Can it sustain visions of U.S. space leadership under a new administration? Experts disagree on whether the strategy has a path forward, writes TSR editor Jeff Foust.

How a helicopter drone could fly on Mars

Seeker (5/8): The European Space Agency is assessing the promise of a drone helicopter as an exploration tool on Mars. The effort will determine whether a rotor craft rather than a fixed wing drone is better suited for the future exploration of the Martian surface.

Space Launch System (SLS) upper stage testing begins

Spaceflight Insider (5/8): Tests underway at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center are intended to prepare a Space Launch System (SLS) upper stage for flight. Initiated in February, the assessment should be complete by the middle of this month. The SLS and Orion are under development at NASA to start humans on new missions of deep space exploration.


Space Science

NASA’s next big space telescope is about to get extremely cold to prep for launch

The Verge (5/8): Over the weekend, NASA transported its next big space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where it will soon undergo thermal vacuum testing. The tests will expose the telescope’s large segmented mirror  and instrumentation to temperatures of 400 degrees below zero for about 100 days to simulate conditions at the JWST’s destination in space about one million miles from the Earth. Launch of the designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is planned for October 2018.

Planetary protection: Contamination debate still simmers (5/8): Planetary protection is rising as an important part of the search for life beyond Earth. NASA is taking measures on two missions to keep terrestrial microorganisms from contaminating space environments. In mid-September, the Cassini spacecraft will make a deliberate destructive plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid a possible contamination of the moon’s Enceladus and Titan, both of which may host habitable environments. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover may face restrictions on where it travels on the red planet to gather soil and rock samples for eventual return to Earth.

Geniuses wanted: NASA challenges coders to speed up its supercomputer

New York Times (5/8): NASA has turned to crowd sourcing to accelerate the development of new software. Success could mean a $55,000 payout.


Low Earth Orbit

It’s time for the U.S. Air Force to prepare for preemption in space

The Space Review (5/8): The U.S. needs to mature its assessment of self-defense in space, according to an op-ed from a pair of veteran space national security experts. As it fills with new valuable assets, space is also becoming more contested.

Draft bill would give commerce, not FAA, “mission authorization” function (5/8): Draft legislation would make the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce responsible for oversight of non-government space activities rather than the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Department of Transportation. Three lawmakers are floating the idea, according to the report. They include U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee; U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, who chairs the panel’s Space Subcommittee; and U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, of Oklahoma.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 completes critical design review

Defense Insider (5/8): Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1, a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180 rocket engine, has passed the critical design review stage in its development. The AR1, or Blue Origin’s BE-4, are under consideration for the first stage propulsion of the United Launch Alliance Vulcan launch vehicle. The RD-180 powers the first stage of ULA’s Atlas 5.


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