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Today’s Deep Space Extra for Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1st, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Europe’s service module contribution to NASA’s Orion crew exploration capsule could pave the way for the participation of European astronauts on NASA led deep space missions. The European hardware is set to undergo ground testing at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio. Twin test stands rise from the grounds of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to evaluate the structure of the Space Launch System exploration rocket prior to an inaugural test flight with the Orion capsule and European Service Module planned for late 2018. Six volunteers, including two from Montana, participate in a rigorous Mars mission simulation. Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter closes in on a second opportunity to maneuver into orbit. NASA’s Ames Research Center wraps energy saving space technologies into a new office building. High tech eyewear is set to reach the International Space Station aboard an Orbital ATK re-supply mission planned for launching on Thursday. New U.S. legislation could underpin a commercial space push. NASA extends space technologies to energy, health and transportation industries through commercial opportunities. DARPA drops plans for the launching of small satellites from the U.S. Air Force F-15. Blue Origin’s New Shepard advances the promise of lower commercial launch costs. XCOR veterans launch new space start up.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Before the Moon and Mars, NASA’s Orion spacecraft must prove itself in Ohio
News Ledge (11/30): A test version of the European Space Agency’s contribution to NASA’s future human deep space exploration plans, the European Service Module (ESM), awaits rigorous ground testing at Plumbrook Station, part of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio. The ESM will provide power and propulsion to the unpiloted Orion crew capsule that is to launch on the first test flight of the Space Launch System exploration rocket in late 2018. The tests will simulate the forces that accompany the launch as well as the deployments of solar arrays and SLS second stage separation. ESA’s contribution would mean a place for astronauts on missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Research on piece of Orion spacecraft set to begin in Sandusky
Toledo Blade, of Ohio (12/1): NASA’s Plumbrook Station in northwest Ohio will host ground tests for a crucial part of the Orion crew exploration capsule, the European Service Module. The hardware that supplies propulsion, solar power and life support components will undergo testing that simulates launch conditions as well as the temperature extremes of deep space. Orion, the European Service Module and the Space Launch System exploration rocket are to undergo an inaugural test launch in late 2018.

New SLS test stands rise out of the ground at Marshall
NASAspaceflight.com (11/30): A pair of test stands are under construction at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center for structural testing of the Space Launch System exploration rocket. The test stands will be used to assess how well the big rocket’s structure can withstand the forces of launching astronauts on future missions of deep space exploration. NASA plans an inaugural unpiloted test SLS in late 2018.

Montanans simulate isolation of Mars on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa
The Helena Independent Record, of Montana (11/30): A half dozen volunteers have been exploring the human factors involved in the isolation, confinement and demands of a future mission to Mars as part of a NASA funded, university backed research program in Hawaii that got underway on Aug. 29. Two call Montana home.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Saved Japanese probe gets final chance to orbit Venus
Discovery.com (11/30): Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter is closing in on a second chance to steer into orbit around Venus for studies of the atmosphere. In December 2010 a spacecraft thruster failure allowed the probe to fly by. Japanese engineers worked on a backup plan that will enable a second chance for the orbital maneuver on Dec. 7.

Low Earth Orbit

NASA uses lessons from space to design an efficient building
NPR (12/1): At NASA’s Ames Research Center Sustainability Base, a new building, provides its occupants with solar energy and power produced with fuel cells, natural sunlight and passive cooling through the circulation of water. Each is a technology developed for use in space.

Astronauts are getting augmented reality headsets this week
Popular Science (11/30): A re-supply mission to the International Space Station scheduled to launch Thursday will include virtual and augmented reality eyewear for evaluation by astronauts. The Microsoft HoloLenses are intended to improve communications between astronauts and ground based experts, furnishing real time instruction in how to carry out complex tasks and experiments. Orbital ATK is providing the NASA contracted launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Glenn Reynolds: Cashing in on the final frontier
USA Today (11/30): New commercial space legislation, approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama, could set the stage for unprecedented growth, writes Glenn Harlan Reynolds, University of Tennessee law professor. Reynolds is especially optimistic about legislative provisions that allow U.S. citizens to retain and sell the resources they find on asteroids and other planetary bodies.

Expanding the space industry
The Space Review (11/30): In Houston, NASA, major contractors and others with a stake in space exploration gathered in late November for the first Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, or SpaceCom, an opportunity to extend promising technologies from the space program to the energy, medicine, transportation and other industrial sectors. Globally valued at $330 billion annually, the aerospace sector appears primed for growth, writes TSR editor Jeff Foust.

DARPA scraps plan to launch small sats from F-15 fighter jet 
Space News (11/30): The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency drops efforts to launch small satellites using the U.S. Air Force F-15 as a launch platform. The rapid response, low cost strategy succumbed to difficulties with the rocket fuel.

Suborbital

Blue Origin sticks the landing
The Space Review (11/30): Blue Origin triumphed when its suborbital New Shepard rocket soared to the fringes of space, then executed a powered vertical landing on Nov. 23. The company must still demonstrate the rocket can launch and land again to prove reusability. But the fete was a landmark in the competition to lower launch costs through the use of reusable launch vehicle hardware.

XCOR Aerospace co-founders launch new start up: Agile Aero for the next frontier
Geekwire (11/30): Three aerospace veterans with roots in XCOR launch a new space start up, Agile Aero. Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson plan the rapid prototyping of advanced aerospace vehicles.
 

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