Today’s Deep Space Extra, Thursday, September 10, 2015

September 10th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Assembly of the NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion capsule assigned to the first space test flight of the Space Launch System heavy lift rocket has begun at the Michoud Assembly Facility. Orion’s parachute recovery system clears recent demanding drop test over the Arizona desert. Opening soon in theaters, The Martian returns a more optimistic view to the science fiction genre by championing the skills of engineers and scientists. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft begins beaming new data from the July 14 Pluto flyby back to Earth. A SETI boost is coming with Russian financial pledge. A Russian researcher raises concerns over mounting manmade orbital debris. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson vows a timely U.S. Senate/House compromise on new commercial space legislation. Reports of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s bid for United Launch Alliance could shakeup the U.S. launch industry, but calm a tumultuous 18 months. Boeing and United Launch Alliance prepare to assemble a launch pad access tower for astronauts launching on Boeing’s Starliner.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Lockheed Martin joins first sections of Orion crew module in U.S. (9/9): Pieces of the next NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion capsule assigned to a space test flight are being welded together at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. “Each of Orion’s systems and subsystems is assembled or integrated onto the primary structure, so starting to weld the underlying elements together is a critical first manufacturing step,” said Mark Geyer, NASA’s Orion project manager. The completed Orion spacecraft will launch on the first Space Launch System test flight planned for late 2018. Unmanned, the capsule will loop around the moon and return to Earth for an ocean splashdown.

EM-1 Orion begins assembly as CDR process continues (9/8): The NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion spacecraft assigned to Exploration Mission-1, NASA’s inaugural unmanned test flight of the Space Launch System heavy lift rocket, is undergoing assembly at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Planned for late 2018, EM-1 will send the unpiloted Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery. The first piloted test flight of the Orion capsule atop the Space Launch Vehicle is planned for 2021.

Flown Orion arrives in Colorado for additional analysis and testing

Blogs.NASA.Gov (9/1): The Lockheed Martin Orion capsule that completed a two orbit test flight around the Earth in December has been shipped from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to company facilities in Littleton, Colo., where it will undergo additional post flight analysis, including tests to determine how it withstands the acoustic energy that accompanies the launching. The Orion capsule is under development to start U.S. astronauts on future missions of deep space exploration.

Orion parachute system withstands failure test (8/26): The parachute recovery system for the NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion capsule cleared a rigorous parachute recovery system test at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in the Arizona desert. The capsule under development to launch U.S. astronauts on future missions of deep space exploration reached the desert floor despite two intentional parachute failures. The drop started at 35,000 feet.

`The Martian’ author Andy Weir brings his nerd thriller into the mainstream
The New York Times (9/9): Opening in theaters on Oct. 2, The Martian offers an optimistic vision to the dark side of the science fiction genre that has reigned of late. “This is adventure for those of us who believe, deep in our hearts, that the heroes of “Star Trek” (the original series, naturally) are Spock and Scotty, the science officer and the engineer,” notes the Times. “They don’t know why Kirk gets the gals, but they know they will end up saving the day, over and over again. With clever solutions, not fisticuffs.”

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Pluto probe starts beaming home ‘treasure trove’ of flyby data (9/9): NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, acclaimed for a successful first ever flyby of distant Pluto, has begun to transmit data from the encounter back to Earth. There is so much that the process that began Sept. 5 is expected to require a full year.

SETI reborn: The new search for intelligent life
Astrobiology Magazine (9/10): A 10-year, $100 million pledge from Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize Foundation is breathing new life into the SETI Institute’s search for life beyond the solar system. The search for radio and optical signals from intelligent civilizations will include the nearest one million stars.

Low Earth Orbit

Russian space agency: Space debris may pose threat to Russia’s national security
TASS, of Russia (9/8): Growing accumulations of manmade debris in Earth orbit threaten future exploration plans and Russian national security, according to a top research official with Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Nelson seeks swift compromise on commercial launch bill
Space News (9/9): U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson plans to encourage a swift compromise on commercial space legislation between U.S. House and Senate versions. Nelson, a member of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, expects to reach a compromise by year’s end. Much of the focus will be on the extension of a current FAA learning period on passenger safety provisions and indemnification. The Senate version would extend both exemptions through 2020, the House version through 2025. The Senate measure would also extend International Space Station operations from 2020 through 2024, as proposed by the White House in early 2014.

Bid for ULA would cap a tumultuous 18 months, and shake up the rocket industry
The Washington Post (9/9): Aerojet Rocketdyne’s reported $2 billion bid to purchase United Launch Alliance would mark a major shakeup in the U.S. space launch industry, according to an analysis by the newspaper. Calm could follow. ULA announced recently plans to develop the Vulcan rocket to replace the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 for launchings of U.S. national security payloads.

Commercial crew tower moving to Cape pad
Orlando Sentinel (9/9): The first segments of a 200 foot tall tower that will provide astronauts access to the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule will be joined early next week at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the Starliner will transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

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