CSExtra – Top Space News for Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10th, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA experts say they are determined to get to the bottom of the parachute damage experienced during the latest flight test of a Mars landing technology demonstrator.  An op-ed questions NASA’s heading. Japan unveils plans for a robotic mission to gather samples of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. NASA takes the CubeSat space exploration potential to Europe. One U.S. mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa may not be enough to address the question of alien life.  An impressively fertile galactic star forming region is surprisingly far away. Three International Space Station astronauts will return to Earth early Thursday. The Planetary Society offers visual evidence of LightSail’s deployment success. Russia updates its schedule of International Space Station crew and cargo mission launches for the rest of 2015. The International Space Station adjusts to an unexpected Soyuz thruster firing. Florida high school students develop a communications app for astronauts.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Huge supersonic parachute ripped to shreds in NASA ‘flying saucer’ test (6/9): Design upgrades to the large parachute damaged earlier this week during NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Demonstrator test flight at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range facility in the Hawaiian Islands are planned, NASA engineers told a Tuesday news briefing. After studies of recorded high definition video and recorded data, NASA plans more ground tests that will lead to a third flight test in the summer of 2016.

NASA confident in finding fix for test parachute failure (6/9): With the recovery of recorded on board high definition video and performance data, NASA engineers will address the design factors responsible for parachute damage during this week’s second flight test of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator technology package at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range facility in Hawaii. More ground testing is planned before a third flight test set for the summer of 2016. NASA believes the LDSD’s inflatable heat shield and large supersonic parachute are an important part of plans to land more massive payloads on the Martian surface in support of future robotic and human missions.

NASA to request money for another ‘falling saucer’ test

Pasadena Star News, of California (6/9):  NASA will need additional funding for the continued development of Low Density Supersonic Decelerator technologies if it pursues the Mars landing strategy demonstrated at high altitude earlier this week at the U.S. Navy’s Missile Test Range Facility in Hawaii. The parachute element of the test vehicle was damaged and failed to slow a descent into Pacific Ocean waters for a second year in a row. Engineers believe the technology could greatly increase the payload mass that can be placed on the Martian surface in support of future human exploration.

A grand national space strategy could save NASA (op-ed) (6/9): Michael Potter, a senior fellow at the International Institute of Space Commerce, offers a not so flattering Expert Voices perspective on U.S. space planning. NASA has drifted from its Apollo-like focus, he writes in an op-ed. “For example, why does NASA not have any sustained presence on the moon? Why does the United States not have a human-rated rocket?”

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

JAXA plans probe to bring back samples from moons of Mars

Japan Times (6/10): Though many details remain to be worked out, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Tuesday outlined broad plans to obtain samples of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos with a robotic mission that could be launched as soon as 2021.

CubeSats to the rescue? 

Air and Space Museum Magazine (6/9): The small satellites could answer the “faster, better, cheaper” call for space missions from two decades ago. Mission planners from Europe, Japan and Russia are gathered in Berlin this week to discuss whether the CubeSat innovation holds promise for lowering space mission costs.

NASA aiming for multiple missions to Jupiter moon Europa (6/9):  NASA’s plans for a first ever robotic mission to the intriguing ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter’s moon Europa is unlikely to be the last, according to space agency officials. Some experts believe Europa harbors environmental conditions suitable for undersea life forms.

Monstrous star-forming regions seen in ancient galaxy (6/9): Star birth at the extreme is not close at hand, according to imagery gathered by a Chilean observatory.

Low Earth Orbit

Longest woman spaceflyer to return as Russia reshuffles Space Station launches after rocket failure

Universe Today (6/9): The delayed return to Earth of three International Space Station astronauts, NASA’s Terry Virts, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, is scheduled  for early Thursday in southern Kazakhstan. Their mid-May descent was postponed by the April 28 launch failure of Russia’s Progress 59 re-supply mission. Their near 200 days in orbit, however, enabled Cristoforetti to establish a new world’s record for continuous spaceflight by a woman. Landing of their Soyuz capsule is expected shortly before 10 a.m., EDT.

LightSail spacecraft sends back a selfie showing its sail stretched out

New York Times (6/9): The Planetary Society on Tuesday provided imagery of a successful LightSail deployment from the nonprofit’s experimental CubeSat mission launched May 20. The 344 square foot Mylar experimental sail deployed successfully in Earth orbit on Sunday. The Planetary Society believes the sail technology could harness the energy of sunlight to move spacecraft between the planets. A privately financed second test flight is planned in 2016.

Russia lays out its ISS schedule for the rest of 2015 (6/9): Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, on Tuesday offered a new launch schedule for crew and cargo missions planned during the remainder of 2015. The schedule adjustment comes in response to the April 28 launch failure of a Russian Progress re-supply mission.

Docked spacecraft’s abnormal engine start causes ISS to move

TASS, of Russia (6/9): On Tuesday, thrusters on the Russian Soyuz TMA-15M crew transport docked to the six person International Space Station fired inexplicably. The incident was compensated for by the station’s systems and will not interfere with the early Thursday descent to Earth of three U.S., European and Russian ISS crew members. The incident’s cause is under investigation.

Palm Bay students’ HUNCH could lead to space

Florida Today (6/10): Students at Florida’s Palm Bay Magnet High School develop “KooPalla,” a computer app for astronaut to astronaut communications in space. The project was sponsored by HUNCH (High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware), a 12-year-old program that has involved more than 70 schools in 18 states and Canada.

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