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Today’s Deep Space Extra - Explore Deep Space

Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 18th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… President Trump expands National Space Council membership. NASA’s planned CAPSTONE mission will pioneer the proposed cislunar orbit selected for the human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway. Northrop Grumman’s latest resupply mission reached the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday.

Human Space Exploration

National Space Council expands membership
SpaceNews.com (2/14): On February 13, President Trump announced that the Secretary of Energy, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy have been added to the roster of National Space Council. The council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, was re-established by the president in 2017, to shape U.S. space policy.

Northrop Grumman Antares rocket boosts Space Station cargo ship into orbit
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
CBS News (2/15): Northrop Grumman’s 13th NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launched Saturday on a course to reach the orbiting science laboratory early Tuesday. The Cygnus cargo capsule, named for Robert H. Lawrence Jr., the first U.S. African-American astronaut, lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore on Saturday at 3:21 p.m., EST, after delays for weather and a ground support system sensor issue. Aboard was 7,500 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments and other equipment.

Cygnus cargo craft attached to Station for three-month stay
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman 
NASA (2/18): Northrop Grumman’s 13th NASA contracted Cygnus re-supply mission spacecraft reached the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday. NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Jessica Meir used the Station’s Canadian robot arm to capture the Cygnus at 4:05 a.m., EST. It was berthed to the Station’s Unity module at 6:16 a.m., EST. About a third of the 7,500 pound cargo is dedicated to the support of ongoing and new science experiments and technology demonstrations. The re-supply capsule is to remain berthed to the Station’s U.S. segment Unity module until May, when it will depart for an extended independent mission to deploy small satellites and carry out a NASA fire in space investigation called Saffire.

NASA picks Rocket Lab to launch lunar CubeSat mission
Spaceflightnow.com (2/15): NASA has selected Rocket Lab for an early 2021 launch of a small satellite called CAPSTONE that is to break ground on a highly elliptical trajectory around the Moon known as a near rectilinear halo orbit,  the course planned for the agency’s human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway. The unprecedented orbit is intended to provide NASA Artemis astronauts with access to a wide range of landing sites on the Moon, including the south pole. Rocket Lab will launch CAPSTONE from Wallops Island, Virginia, on an Electron rocket under the $9.95 million agreement in order to assess planned Gateway navigation strategies.

Space Science

NASA selects four finalists for next Discovery mission
SpaceNews.com (2/14): Last week, NASA announced the selection of four candidate planetary science missions under its Discovery program. Two would launch to Venus, one to Io, the volcanically active Moon of Jupiter, and the other to Triton, a moon of Neptune. One of the Venus missions would descend to the surface to study the atmosphere, the other would orbit with synthetic aperture radar to map the surface. The selections provide each science team $3 million to further develop a mission strategy over the next nine months. NASA will select one or two of the candidates for full development next year and launch between January 2025 and December 2026 and between July 2028 and December 2029.  

NASA’s epic gamble to get Martian dirt back to Earth
Wired (2/14): The Earth and Mars align favorably in July for the launch of science missions. NASA, the European and Russian space agencies and China are among those launching rovers. After landing in February 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to collect and cache samples of soil and rock. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working on a follow-up mission to retrieve and transport the samples back to Earth. Studies of the material will reveal more about the early Martian environment, possibly evidence of past life forms.

Inside the high stakes missions of NASA’s oldest deep-space probes
The Daily Beast (2/18): Catching up with NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 missions, both launched in 1977 and pioneering the challenges of exploring beyond the solar system.

New photo of a star that people hope will explode shows it fading and changing shape
CBC (2/15): Astronomers are watching closely as the star Betelgeuse continues to dim and change shape. The red giant star is 14,000 times as luminous as the sun and 1,400 times larger. Betelgeuse, it appears, is exhausting its hydrogen and helium fuel and nearing the end of its life. If so, the star is perhaps close to exploding, in which case it could be visible from Earth as bright as the Moon and during the day.

SETI search of interstellar Comet Borisov finds no sign of alien ‘technosignatures’
Space.com (2/14): Comet Borisov, the second interstellar object observed to have recently visited the solar system, has come up negative in a search by Breakthrough Listen for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. The search was sparked by the previous discovery of the first recent interstellar object, Oumuamua, which also came up negative. However, the discussion over the origin of the objects and their course through space continues.

Op Ed

Why the International Lunar Decade still makes sense
The Space Review (2/17): Four proponents call for a 2021-2030 International Lunar Decade, a global cooperative initiative to help advance lunar exploration and development with public private partnerships and multinational alliances with a positive economic outcome.

Other News

Commerce Department seeks big funding boost for Office of Space Commerce
SpaceNews.com (2/16): The U.S. Department of Commerce will try again to win Congress over on a 2021 budget request of $15 million to combine the Office of Space Commerce with the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office and move the combination from NOAA, where each currently resides to directly within the office of the Secretary of Commerce. The move affects space traffic management as well as regulation and promotion of commercial space activities.

Blue Origin lays out ambitious plan for rocket engine production as it opens Alabama factory
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance
GeekWire.com (2/17): Blue Origin opened the doors Monday to its new Huntsville, Ala., rocket engine production facility. Constructed in a year, the factory will employee about 300 and produce 42 engines annually for the new United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin’s own rockets. With some work remaining, actual production is forecast to get underway this summer.

From Dubai to Mars, with stops in Colorado and Japan
New York Times (2/15): This summer, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to launch the Hope spacecraft on a two year Mars orbital mission to image the planet and study the low altitude atmosphere. Hope was assembled in the U.S. and will be launched from Japan to reach the Red Planet early next year. The UAE hopes to learn more about “knowledge based commerce,” through the experience, a future asset as the demand for petroleum, its main export, declines.

SpaceX launches Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral on 80th Falcon 9 mission
Florida Today (2/17): SpaceX successfully launched its fifth batch of 60 Starlink internet connection satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday at 10:05 a.m., EST. Efforts to recover the thrice flown first stage booster, however, failed.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of February 16-22, 2020
Spacepolicyonline.com (2/16): The week ahead offers multiple presentation and discussion forums on NASA’s space science budget, space weather,  space situational awareness and space traffic management as well as the new U.S. Space Force.

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