Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 3rd, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… White House commits to ISS through 2030. James Webb Space Telescope successfully launched and is completing first tasks in space.


Human Space Exploration

Biden commits to ISS through 2030 and amid U.S.-Russian tensions
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (12/31): The Biden Administration announced its commitment to extend NASA’s oversight and participation in the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, a six-year extension. Congress must authorize an extension beyond the current end date of 2024, and NASA’s other partners aligned through cooperative agreements with the European, Japanese, Canadian and Russian space agencies must also agree. Previously, NASA leadership has said it wants the ISS to continue operations as new commercial free flyers emerge to eventually take the place of the orbital lab while avoiding a gap in low Earth orbit presence.

Japan wants a JAXA astronaut to be first “non-American” to join a NASA lunar landing (12/29): Working with the NASA-led Artemis initiative, Japan is supporting an effort to land a Japanese astronaut on the Moon by the end of the decade as the first non-American to do so. Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, announced the goal during a December 28 meeting of the country’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Development. Japan is preparing to select a new class of astronauts in February 2023.


Space Science

James Webb space telescope engineers take extra time to ensure smooth sunshade deploy (1/3): Following a successful Christmas Day launch from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) successfully deployed solar arrays and other critical components and executed a pair of planned trajectory correction maneuvers. Over the weekend, engineers slowed plans for tightening the large sunshade in order to check out power systems and other components. Sunshade tightening, however, could resume on Monday.

James Webb Space Telescope’s fuel expected to last more than 10 years (12/29): The Webb telescope was developed with an envisioned five- to ten-year primary mission. Thanks, though, to the precision of its launch and two post launch mid-course corrections, the world’s latest space observatory has enough onboard propellant to exceed 10 years of operations.


Other News

China’s space station maneuvered to avoid Starlink satellites (12/28): China has informed the United Nations that its space station twice maneuvered to avoid potential collisions with SpaceX Starlink satellites last year. The notification, dated December 6 by China under Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty stated that the Tianhe space station module conducted preventive collision avoidance due to close approaches by the Starlink-1095 and Starlink-2305 satellites on July 1 and October 21 respectively. The note from China requested the U.N. secretary-general to remind others that, “States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty.”

FAA delays completion of Starship environmental review (12/28): The FAA has notified SpaceX that it was not able to complete by December 31 an environmental review of the company’s plans to launch a Starship/Super Heavy orbital test flight from its South Texas launch and production facilities. Due to the volume of comments from the public on the plan, the FAA has moved the release date for its Programmatic Environmental Assessment to February 28, 2022.

Firefly halts launch preparations after federal government seeks divestment of foreign ownership (12/30): Startup Firefly Aerospace has paused preparations for the launch of a second Alpha rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, in response to a request from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. that the company divest the holdings of its largest stockholder for national security concerns. “Noosphere Venture Partners, a fund run by Ukrainian-born investor Max Polyakov, said December 29 that it will retain an investment banking firm to sell its interest in Firefly,” reports.

NASA funds thermal control solutions for harsh lunar environments
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (12/31): Advanced Cooling Technologies (ACT), a Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based thermal solutions provider, has won NASA funding for thermal control that enables vehicles and other equipment to survive harsh lunar environments without an active power source. The $5 million NASA Sequential Phase II SBIR Program Award will be used to develop a “toolbox” of heat transport, radiators and other systems for moon-bound landers, rovers and habitats, said the company. The solutions aim to specifically address the needs of small, low-power vehicles that face significant thermal challenges because of the slow rotation of the lunar surface relative to the sun.

Rich Clifford, astronaut who secretly flew with Parkinson’s disease, dies at 69
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing\ (12/28): A U.S. Army veteran, Clifford who launched three times as a NASA shuttle astronaut between his selection by NASA in 1990 and his departure from the agency in 1997, passed away on December 28 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. He was 69. Clifford would later disclose that he launched on his third shuttle mission following his Parkinson’s diagnosis, while managing the early symptoms.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of January 2 – 8, 2022 (1/2): Launched successfully on December 25, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is undergoing the tensioning of the observatory’s large sunshield as the week begins. NASA plans a news briefing once the tensioning is complete and on Friday as all the deployments progress. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) week-long annual SciTech forum begins Monday. SpaceX’s Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s former associate administrator for human exploration, is scheduled for a virtual keynote address, “Human Spaceflight, The Ultimate Team Sport,” on opening day at 3:50 p.m. EST. As Congress returns to Washington, issues of note on the space front include action to appropriate a federal budget for the remainder of the 2022 fiscal year and possible further negotiations on the Build Back Better Act, which includes a potential $1.115 billion for NASA. The Senate is in session this week, and the House next week but is prepared for pro forma sessions this week.

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