Deep Space Extra for Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA receives a significant spending boost in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations measure outlined by Congress on Wednesday. The agency’s Space Launch System exploration rocket, Orion crew vehicle and Commercial Crew Program fare especially well. Some elements of the overall spending plan, like the lifting of a ban on imports of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine, are controversial. Congress also passed another budget Continuing Resolution to give the House, Senate and White House time to approve the Omnibus. The spending plan directs NASA’s future mission to Europa to attempt a landing on the Jovian moon. Enceladus’s geyser spray loses some muscle, say scientists. China’s space program accelerates with home grown technology. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station expect to screen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens in theaters on Friday. An Indian rocket launch places a half dozen satellites in orbit. XCOR achieves a Lynx propulsion milestone.

NASA’s 2016 Budget

NASA Receives $19.3 Billion in Final 2016 Spending Bill
Space News (12/16): Details of a U.S. House and Senate agreement on a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year emerged Wednesday. At $19.3 billion, the budget for NASA exceeds the White House request for 2016 by $756 million. The agency’s Space Launch System exploration rocket receives $2 billion of the total, including $85 million for work on the exploration upper stage. Planetary science receives $1.631 billion, $270 million more than sought by the administration. The planetary total includes $170 million for a mission to Europa, the ocean covered moon of Jupiter. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program fared well too, receiving $1.244 billion to help keep test and initial operational launches on track for late 2016-17.

Congress Passes Another CR as Votes Await on Full Year Omnibus Bill (12/17): The $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill outlined by Congress on Wednesday awaits passage by the U.S. House and Senate before moving on to President Obama for his signature. Congressional lawmakers passed another short term continuing resolution on Wednesday that remains in effect until next Tuesday and prevents a government shutdown.

Budget bill very good to NASA, KSC
Orlando Sentinel (12/16): The 2016 Congressional spending bill may be the best in several years for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Spending Bill Lifts RD-180 Ban, Puts ULA Back in Competitive Game
Space News (12/16): Details of the 2016 omnibus appropriations bill released on Wednesday lifts a ban on the import of Russian RD-180 rocket engines used by the first stage of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket. In effect until Oct. 1, the lift means ULA can compete for future launches of U.S. national security payloads as well as science and commercial payload missions.

Shelby uses Capitol Hill clout to end Russian rocket engine ban – and help Alabama workers
Huntsville Times (12/16): U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, of Alabama, succeeds in lifting a ban on U.S. imports of the RD-180 rocket engine used by United Launch Alliance to place national security payload in space. Shelby is a member of the Senate’s appropriations committee.

McCain furious over Russian rocket engine provision
Politico (12/16): U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, has harsh words for fellow Sen. Richard Shelby who engineered a lifting of the ban on imports of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine. The RD-180 powers the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 launch vehicle with national security, science and commercial payloads. The ban on imports was to punish Russia for its intrusions in Ukraine.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Congress: NASA must not only go to Europa, it must land
Ars Technica (12/16): NASA’s omnibus spending measure for 2016 includes a provision for a robotic mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa — with a requirement that it include a lander as well as an orbiter to study the habitability of the ice and ocean covered outer solar system body.

The Geysers on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Are Mysteriously Losing Steam (12/16): Cassini, the multi-national mission spacecraft orbiting Saturn, has detected a retreat in the geyser like spray rising from the moon Enceladus, an outer solar system body with a possible habitable environment. The future of the ongoing spray is unclear, say scientists presenting their findings this week before the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

Low Earth Orbit

China’s booming space program might put the US and Russia to shame
Tech Insider (12/16): Slow to start, China’s space program ambitions are accelerating with new rockets and plans for a space station and human exploration.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to be screened in space
CBS News (12/16): The International Space Station’s six U.S., Russian and U.K. crew members expect to join terrestrial movie goers this weekend with their own screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest episode in the long running Star Wars saga.

Commercial to Orbit

PSLV completes commercial launch with six Singaporean satellites (12/16): India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully placed an Earth observation satellite and a hand full of various other small spacecraft in Earth orbit.


XCOR’s Lynx Engine Design has Breakthrough
Spaceflight Insider (12/15): A milestone in propulsion testing could facilitate multiple flights of XCOR’s winged Lynx suborbital space plane in a single day.

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