Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 23rd, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The Build Back Better legislation, which includes $1.115 billion for NASA, was passed by the U.S. House on Friday. Chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Eddie Bernice Johnson to retire. NASA’s DART mission set to launch on Wednesday.


Human Space Exploration

Mike Suffredini talks Axiom module additions to ISS, ensuring no gap in LEO station access
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (11/19):  Mike Suffredini, retired NASA International Space Station (ISS) program manager, discusses how Axiom Space, of which he is a co-founder and president and CEO, intends to use the ISS as the foundation for the assembly of a planned commercial LEO station. The assembly of Axiom’s initial modules at the ISS is intended to begin in 2024.

NASA seeks ideas for a nuclear reactor on the Moon
Associated Press via ABC News (11/19): NASA, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, is seeking proposals for a lunar surface nuclear reactor power source by the end of the 2020s. The goal is to help NASA and its partners establish a sustainable human presence at the Moon with technical capabilities that will support future human expeditions to Mars. The proposals, which are due February 19, are meant to support at least a 40 KW power generation capability for 10 years with hardware assembled on the Earth prior to launch. 


Space Science

LightSail 2 solar sail is still soaring above Earth more than two years after launch (11/19): Planetary Society’s experimental Light Sail 2 spacecraft has passed the 2 1/2 year mark on a mission to demonstrate the propulsion capabilities of light photons emitted by the sun. NEA Scout, a mission informed by the results of the Light Sail 2 experiment, will launch aboard NASA’s Artemis I test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew capsule and use the light from the sun to leave lunar orbit to visit a near Earth asteroid.


Other News

Cygnus cargo freighter ends mission at International Space Station
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (11/20): Northrop Grumman’s 16th NASA-contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) departed on Saturday. The Cygnus capsule, named in honor of the late Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut and a casualty of the shuttle Challenger accident, arrived at the ISS on August 12, 2021 with an 8,200 pound cargo. The Cygnus capsule will remain in Earth orbit until December 15, supporting an experimental payload for the Department of Defense (DoD) and heat shield thermal protection system technology evaluation developed by the University of Kentucky.

House passes infrastructure bill with $1.115 billion for NASA (11/19): President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation was passed by the U.S. House on Friday. Valued at a potential $1.75 to $2 trillion over 10 years, the measure now includes $1.115 billion for NASA, less than originally sought. The majority is for upgrades to NASA infrastructure, but also aviation, wildfire research, and climate change mitigation. The measure now moves onto the U.S. Senate for consideration.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement after almost 3 decades in Congress (11/20): U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, of Dallas, one of the longest serving members of Congress and chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which influences policymaking over NASA, announced on Saturday that she will not seek re-election and will retire as her term ends in January 2022. Johnson, a Democrat, has served in the House since 1992.

Babin, Lucas challenge NTSB on commercial space investigative authority (11/21): Plans by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to obtain more authority to investigate commercial space accidents has drawn the attention of U.S. Representatives Brian Babin, of Texas, and Frank Lucas, of Oklahoma, the top House Republicans in positions to oversee U.S. commercial space activity. Babin and Lucas believe efforts by the NTSB to expand its authority would alter a long-standing investigative process, while having a significant detrimental impact on a range of fronts: the commercial space launch industry; U.S. economic competitiveness; scientific discovery; space exploration; international cooperation; national security; and safety. Babin, meanwhile, has introduced a House resolution declaring “that space launch is a developmental activity, not a form of transportation, and that a process exists for investigating commercial space launch reentry activities.”

Europe’s space agency dreams of launching its own astronauts amid ambitious ‘Accelerator’ plans (11/19): The ministers from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) member states, who met last week, are backing a pair of priorities. One is the ability for Europe to launch its own astronauts; another one is a science mission to return samples from an icy moon of Jupiter or Saturn to determine if they might host life.

Japan, Australia condemn Russia for ‘irresponsible’ anti-satellite missile test (11/19): Japan and Australia joined a growing list of nations, including the U.S., condemning Russia for its November 15 anti-satellite test which created 1,500 orbital debris fragments in low Earth orbit large enough to be tracked plus many more too small for tracking.

Astra successfully reaches orbit for the first time with latest rocket launch
TechCrunch (11/20): California-based Astra joined the launch community late Friday with liftoff of a rocket from Kodiak, Alaska that achieved orbit for the first time. This was Astra’s ‘LV0007’ mission, the follow-up to its last try in August, which was ended short of reaching orbit. Astra is focused on launching small payload rockets.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for November 21 to December 4, 2021 (11/21): Pre-Thanksgiving activities this week include the launches of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) on Wednesday at 1:20 a.m. EST, and the launch of Russia’s Prichal docking node to the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday at 8:06 a.m. EST. With Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion, the DART spacecraft will spend about ten months traveling out towards an asteroid called Didymos. This asteroid is orbited by a smaller asteroid called Dimorphos. It’s the small object, Dimorphos, that will be impacted by the spacecraft. Monday marks the start of two webinars, Moon Dialogs, which will address “Lunar Governance: Lessons from Earth,” and “Blockchain for Space,” a sponsored event. The U.S. House and Senate are in recess for Thanksgiving this week except for pro forma sessions.

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