Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 6th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA is seeking proposals for the next phase of Artemis landers. James Webb Space Telescope passes key launch review.


Human Space Exploration

NASA seeking proposals for next phase of Artemis lunar lander services despite industry protests (7/2): NASA on July 1 issued a request for proposals for a Sustainable Human Landing System Studies and Risk Reduction effort under Appendix N of the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. The action seeks competitive industry-led studies of human landing system (HLS) development for operations beyond Artemis III, the mission that targets a return of astronauts to the surface of the Moon. The space agency launched this next request for lander services even though the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) is assessing protests over NASA’s award of a sole contract to SpaceX to develop an HLS to support a human return to the surface of the Moon. The GAO should rule on the protests by teams led by Blue Origin and Dynetics regarding the Artemis III HLS contract by August 4. NASA is seeking responses to its latest call for HLS study proposals by August 2.  

Stennis, SLS core stage teams reflect on Green Run campaign
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (7/5): A look back at NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Green Run campaign, a challenging effort to ground-test the rocket’s core stage and its four RS-25 engines over 2020 and into 2021 to prepare for Artemis I. The staff involved speak about the challenges of the Green Run, from the COVID-19 pandemic to modifying the infrastructure at Stennis due the core stage’s size.

Lunar exploration as a service: From landers to spacesuits, NASA is renting rather than owning
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (7/5): NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) and spacesuits are the latest examples of efforts by NASA to incorporate the U.S. commercial sector into the agency’s human space exploration arena. The mechanism, though, has brought complaints from some scientists flying experiments on Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, for example, who have said that NASA’s approach of buying payload space on commercial landers shifts the technical burden, and costs, onto researchers, adding that scientists must now come up with their own solutions to issues like thermal control. The next frontier for commercial services at the Moon may involve communications and navigation infrastructure.

Astronauts at China’s new space station conduct first spacewalk
Agence-France Press (7/4): Chinese astronauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo went on a seven-hour spacewalk Sunday outside China’s new space station, Tiangong, whose assembly began in late April. The spacewalkers installed an external camera and worked to prepare the station’s robotic arm for future space station assembly activities. The spacewalk is the second by Chinese astronauts.


Space Science

JWST passes launch review (7/6): The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it had successfully completed the final mission analysis review for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) along with Arianespace, the telescope’s launch service provider. The analysis confirmed that Ariane 5, the vehicle that will launch JWST, and the observatory itself, are set for launch. It also confirmed that all aspects of the launch vehicle and spacecraft are fully compatible.

Europe’s ExoMars parachute still experiencing problems in drop test (7/2): ExoMars, a joint European and Russian initiative to place a lander and rover on Mars, continues to experience difficulties with the parachutes intended to help slow the spacecraft to a landing in the thin atmosphere surrounding the Red Planet. The difficulties forced the European Space Agency (ESA) to delay the launch in mid-2020, when the Earth and Mars were favorably aligned. The European and Russian partnership now plans the ExoMars launch in September 2022.


Major Space Related Activities for the Next Two Weeks

Major space related activities for the next two weeks: July 4 to 17, 2021
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (7/5): July promises news on the suborbital tourism spaceflight front. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is scheduled to take flight with five company employees aboard VSS SpaceShipTwo Unity on July 11 from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Blue Origin is scheduled to follow on July 20 with the launch from West Texas of New Shepard with Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark, Wally Funk, and a yet-to-be-named paying guest. The House Appropriations Committee will finish marking up all 12 FY2022 appropriations bills by the end of next week, with a plan to pass them all by the end of the month. Subcommittee and full committee markups of CJS (NASA/NOAA) are on July 12 and July 15, and of THUD (FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation) on July 12 and July 16. The American Astronautical Society’s John Glenn Memorial Symposium takes place on July 13-15.

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