Today’s Deep Space Extra, Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14th, 2015

Today’s (Monday) space news scan offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. The next U.S. president should consult with the aerospace industry on nation’s exploration goals, according to op-ed. New Pluto photos reveal strange moon Nix. Planet Mercury’s spin rate hints at complex core. Soyuz landing brings record-setting Russian cosmonaut, European and Kazakh space station crew back to Earth. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko near halfway point in near year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. China launches two satellites with seeming military objectives. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden seeks budget flexibility from Congress on Commercial Crew Program if the 2016 year begins without a federal budget. Pentagon official expresses concerns over reports of United Launch Alliance acquisition. France to make new space technology investments. Canada’s aerospace industry looks to government for additional support. Two Chinese satellite launches reported. A preview of space-related activities planned for the week ahead.

Human Deep Space Exploration

What the next president must do to revitalize American space exploration
The Hill (9/11): 3The next president must consult stakeholders in aerospace and Congress before re-shaping the nation’s goals in space exploration, then support them through the political process for the long haul, writes Mark Whittington, blogger and author of a recent study of space exploration, Why is it so Hard to go Back to the Moon?

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

NASA just released the clearest ever picture of Nix, Pluto’s tiny moon
Washington Post (9/11): New images from NASA’s New Horizons mission offer the clearest views yet of Nix, a small moon of Pluto’s. Nix looks like a lumpy space potato. New Horizons became the first spacecraft to fly by Pluto on July 14.

Mercury’s Speedy Spin Hints at Planet’s Insides (9/11): Data from NASA’s Messenger mission to Mercury reveals a faster-than-expected rotation rate. Though by only a few seconds, the faster rotation may imply how much of the small planet’s core is molten.

Low Earth Orbit

Kazakhstan greets record-setting Russian cosmonaut, two crewmen
Reuters (9/12): A Soyuz spacecraft with Russian Gennady Padalka, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen and Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov departed the International Space Station and descended to a safe landing in Kazakhstan late Friday. The landing ended Padalka’s fifth long-duration mission. His 879 days of accumulated time in orbit are a record. Mogensen and Aimbetov returned from their first missions, a 10-day visit to the station to exchange spacecraft and personnel.

Soyuz lands safely in Kazakhstan (9/12): Soyuz crew members Andreas Mogensen, of Denmark, and Aidyn Aimbetov, of Kazakhstan, delivered a new Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station for marathon crew members Scott Kelly, of NASA, and Mikhail Kornienko, of Russia. Kelly and Kornienko are in the midst of a one-year stay on the station as participants in experiments investigating the physical and mental health challenges of future human deep space missions. Mogensen and Aimbetov ended a 10-day round trip by returning to Earth with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Padalka established a new record of 879 days for time accumulated in space with Friday night’s landing.

When nine people eat dinner on the International Space Station, the ceiling becomes a seat
Washington Post (9/11): For eight days in early September, the International Space Station hosted nine U.S., Russian, European, Japanese and Kazakh astronauts and cosmonauts — the most living and working together aboard the station in nearly two years. Dining together was a ritual.

One-year ISS Mission Reaches Milestone
Spaceflight Insider (9/13): U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russia cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will mark the halfway point of their near year-long mission aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday. NASA plans an update on the progress of the mission and science activities from Washington on Monday. Kelly transitioned to space station commander on Sept. 5.

China lofts Yaogan Weixing-28 (Gaofen 9) via Long March 2D (9/14): Two Chinese satellite launches have been reported for possible military Earth observation and communications test applications.

Commercial to Orbit

NASA Seeks Spending Flexibility To Keep Commercial Crew on Schedule
Space News (9/11): If the U.S. federal government enters the 2016 fiscal year on Oct. 1 without a budget, NASA is seeking the spending flexibility to keep its Commercial Crew Program on schedule. Congress appropriated $805 million for the program in 2015. NASA is seeking $1.243 billion for 2016 so that Boeing and SpaceX can meet critical development milestones. The U.S. has relied on Russia for the transportation of astronauts to the International Space Station since the shuttle was retired in 2011.

Exclusive: Pentagon official cites concern about business outlook for ULA
Reuters (9/11): A Pentagon official expresses concerns for the implications of a reported acquisition of United Launch Alliance by bidder Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. The concerns range from financial liabilities, potential impact to the supply chain, projected research funding levels and other issues, according to an official, who asked not to be named. A $2-billion cash offer was extended in August, Reuters reports it was informed on Sept. 8. ULA, a joint Boeing, Lockheed Martin venture, launches U.S. national security payloads under contract to the U.S. Air Force.

France Unveils Commercial Space Investment Initiative 
Space News (9/11): In a move to strengthen his country’s aerospace industry standing, French Economics and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron announced government technology investments in low-orbiting satellite Internet-delivery constellations, high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites and proposed high-throughput broadband satellites in geostationary orbit.

Liberals and NDP promise long-term space plan if elected
Global News, of Canada (9/12): Canada’s aerospace industry suggests it has been neglected by the country’s conservative government. “We’re seeing that in terms of research and development dollars not just in the space sector, but in the science sector and technology sector,” said Mark Boucher, executive director of the Canadian Space Commerce Association. The association is calling for a more inclusive strategy.

The Week Ahead

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 14-18, 2015 (9/13): NASA marks the halfway point in the year-long mission underway aboard the International Space Station by U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko on Monday with a progress report from Washington. Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos plans a Central Florida announcement on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the U.S. space community awaits Congressional legislation on a budget Continuing Resolution, or a 2016 budget, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act and the National Defense Authorization Act.

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