Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 30th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… EGS, Jacobs completing first round of Artemis I pre-launch tests. The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope experiences pandemic-related delays.


Human Space Exploration

EGS, Jacobs completing first round of Artemis 1 pre-launch integrated tests prior to Orion stacking
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Jacobs, Northrop Grumman (9/29): NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and prime contractor Jacobs are working to complete the first round of Artemis I pre-launch testing before the end of September. At the moment, an Integrated Modal Test (IMT) is being completed to gather data on the vibrations the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will experience at launch and flight. Prior to the modal test, an Interface Verification Test (IVT) looked at the performance of the vehicle to ground interfaces, and an Umbilical Release and Retract Test (URRT) checked the ground release system for disconnecting Mobile Launcher (ML) umbilicals and service arms. After IMT is complete, EGS and Jacobs will prepare for the Artemis I Orion spacecraft and CubeSats to be stacked on top of the rocket in October.

China displays crewed Moon landing mission elements (9/30): China is displaying spacecraft elements that could have its astronauts on the surface of the Moon around 2030 and heavy lift rocket elements that could deliver the hardware and equipment for long-term stays. The elements on display at the 13th Zhuhai Airshow include two super heavy rockets and the return capsule from a new generation of spacecraft for astronauts. The display includes the Long March 9, a rocket able to participate in the development of a China-Russia International Lunar Research Station and a Mars sample return.  

Russia works on its own orbital station despite possible extension of ISS service
TASS of Russia (9/29): Russia will prepare to continue to participate in the U.S.-led International Space Station (ISS), whose orbital operations could be extended beyond 2024, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Russia will also prepare for an orbital complex of its own to in part meet the challenges of deep space exploration, according to Putin. Editor’s note: TASS is a Russian government-owned news source.


Space Science

Pandemic causes delay and cost increase for NASA’s Roman Space Telescope
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (9/30): NASA’s Roman Space Telescope has cleared the critical design review, a milestone signaling the major space observatory is ready for full scale assembly and testing. The Coronavirus pandemic, however, has affected schedule and cost for the telescope intended to help study dark energy, the force behind the expansion of the universe, and exoplanets planets. The launch has moved from no later than October 2026 to no later than May 2027. The estimated $3.9 billion cost has risen by $400 million. Meanwhile, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has departed Northrop Grumman facilities in California for its launch site in French Guiana. Launch is planned for December 18.


Other News

After technical demonstrations, satellite servicing grapples other issues
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (9/29): Northrop Grumman subsidiary Space Logistics has demonstrated capabilities to extend the operational lives of communications satellites with Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) spacecraft. However, future similar activities face issues related to satellite life extension technology and practice. Those include licensing. In the U.S. with no one federal agency explicitly responsible, the licensing task has fallen primarily to the FCC and NOAA. “As satellite servicing promises to become more common, there is a push to develop standards to make it easier for different satellite servicing vehicles to interface with a wide range of satellites,” reports.

Blue Origin “gambled” with its Moon lander pricing NASA says in legal documents
Coalition Members in the News – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman
The Verge (9/29): Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Verge obtained hundreds of pages of NASA filings in response to appeals filed by Blue Origin protesting NASA’s award last April of a single contract for the commercial development of a lunar Human Landing System (HLS) to SpaceX. The documents obtained by the Verge suggest Blue Origin was “willing and able” to offer a price lower than its original proposal but elected not to because the company presumed NASA would seek and negotiate a lower price first. Blue Origin filed appeals to the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

FAA completes investigation, Virgin Galactic cleared to fly (9/29): The FAA has cleared Virgin Galactic to resume suborbital passenger missions aboard the USS Unity spacecraft from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The clearance follows a highly publicized July 11 air launch with company founder Richard Branson, two pilots, and other company employees. During flight, USS Unity experienced an airspace deviation that Virgin failed to report to the FAA as required. The company responded with corrective actions and has been cleared to launch again. A target date for the next flight, whose passengers will include members of the Italian Air Force, has not been specified.

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