Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 4th, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA resumes James Webb Space Telescope deployments after pausing for the weekend to ensure motors needed were functioning properly. India’s space program looks to make a comeback in 2022. China aims to complete its space station.


Space Science

NASA resumes Webb deployments after pausing for weekend
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (1/3): Monday marked the start of efforts by ground controllers to command the tensioning of the James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) five-layer sunshade. The tensioning that followed the December 25 launch of the JWST was suspended over the weekend so that controllers could adjust the observatory’s power levels and ensure the needed motors were functioning properly. All five layers of the tennis court sized sunshield could be tensioned by Wednesday if the process unfolds as planned.

We may finally be able to test one of Stephen Hawking’s most far-out ideas (1/3): In the 1970s, Hawking proposed that dark matter, the invisible substance that makes up most matter in the cosmos, may be made of black holes formed in the earliest moments of the Big Bang. Now, three astronomers have developed a theory that explains not only the existence of dark matter, but also the appearance of the largest black holes in the universe. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) could help to address the mystery.

Enceladus’ plumes might not come from an underground ocean
Science News (1/3): New modeling suggests that the water erupting from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus may not come from a salty subsurface ocean. Instead, the water’s source may be pockets of icy liquid water in the moon’s icy shell. The plumes detected by NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn suggested that Enceladus could host possible habitable environments.

2029 will be the perfect year to launch a mission to Sedna (1/1): 2029 and 2034 appear promising dates for a possible flyby mission of 90377 Sedna, a trans Neptunian solar system object with an orbital period of 11,390 years. Sedna is to make its closest approach to the sun in 2076. Sedna’s discovery in 2003 was a factor in a decision three years later to withdraw Pluto’s status as a planet. About the size of the large asteroid Ceres, Sedna is covered in organic compounds like Pluto and other Kuiper Belt objects. As Sedna nears the sun and warms, it may stand up an atmosphere of nitrogen.


Other News

Design flaw blamed for failed debut of South Korea’s new satellite launcher (1/3): The failed October debut of South Korea’s KSLV-2 rocket has been blamed on improperly anchored helium tanks inside the rocket’s upper stage. The kerosene and liquid oxygen-fueled KSLV-2, South Korea’s first entirely domestic rocket, performed well during the early phases of the test flight but released its dummy payload into an unsustainable orbit when its upper-stage engine shut down early. An investigation concluded that improperly designed structures allowed helium tanks inside the upper stage to come loose during flight, resulting in a leak that deprived the rocket’s KRE-007 engine of liquid oxygen.

India’s space program looks to bounce back (1/4): In a New Year’s message published January 3, K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, acknowledged that 2021 was not great for the agency but expressed optimism for the year ahead. A key initiative for this year will be Gaganyaan, India’s human spaceflight program. Sivan said testing of engines, crew escape systems and parachutes are all in progress, along with training of astronaut candidates in India.

China plans missions to Moon’s south pole
Xinhuanet of China (1/4): Three upcoming China National Space Administration (CNSA) missions to the Moon, Chang’e 6,7, and 8, and all to the lunar south pole, are to help establish a future research station. China plans to work with Russia on the research station and is currently operating the Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover at the Moon’s South Pole Aitken Basin. (Editor’s note: Xinhuanet is a Chinese government-owned news source).

China aims to complete space station in another huge year in space (1/3): The Asian country plans to use its aggressive launch pace to complete the assembly of its space station by year’s end. Next up is the launch of the Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft, which is to dock with the station’s Tianhe core module in March or April. China’s 2022 launch manifest also includes science missions, launches from the sea and efforts to demonstrate reuse of the Long March 8 first stage.

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