Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 22nd, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Europa Clipper costs grow. The exoplanet count now surpasses five thousand.


Space Science

NASA reveals Europa Clipper cost growth, Mars Sample Return plan (3/21): During a meeting of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Space Studies Board on Monday, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, discussed changes to two major space science missions, the Europa Clipper and Mars Sample Return. The Clipper’s cost has grown from $4.25 billion to $5 billion. The spacecraft remains on course for a 2024 launch. Separately, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have teamed to develop the Mars Sample Return mission, a multi-spacecraft effort to retrieve samples of the Martian surface gathered by NASA’s Perseverance rover and return them to Earth. The target launch date has moved from 2026 to 2028. Two rather than one Mars landers will be required, one for a sample fetch rover and the second for an ascent rocket to deliver the samples from the Martian surface to an Earth return spacecraft, which would launch in 2027. The samples would return to Earth in 2033.

NASA confirms 5,000 exoplanets beyond our solar system: Each a ‘new world’ (3/21): NASA’s count of exoplanets has surpassed 5,000, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on Monday. The first planets beyond the sun were confirmed in the 1990s. NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and current Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have contributed to the current count. Once fully commissioned, NASA’s recently launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is to assess those planets within the habitable zones of their stars for signs of biomarkers within their atmospheres.


Other News

Beyond Gravity doubles production capacity for satellite dispensers
Coalition Member in the News – Beyond Gravity (3/21): Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space) is doubling its production capability of satellite dispensers in Linköping, Sweden, with the construction of a new facility. Beyond Gravity manufactures dispensers used for satellite constellations where multiple satellites of the same design are launched into orbit in quick succession. The company has successfully helped place more than 1,100 satellites into orbit – from the European Galileo satellite navigation constellation, the OneWeb internet constellation, the TerraBella Earth Observation satellite constellation to the Canadian Radarsat Earth Observation constellation.

Industry proposals sought for ‘cislunar highway patrol’ satellite (3/22): The Air Force Research Laboratory is asking companies to submit ideas on how they would design and develop a spacecraft to monitor outer space beyond Earth’s orbit. AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate is planning an experiment called Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS). AFRL wants to develop capabilities to detect, track and identify objects operating at lunar distances and beyond, a range of 385,000 kilometers. Most Space Force sensors are designed to detect and track satellites that are in geosynchronous orbit, at distances of 36,000 kilometers or closer.

Lockheed Martin to launch new satellite bus aimed at mid-size market
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (3/21): Lockheed Martin plans to launch to orbit later this year a new satellite bus the company designed for both the commercial and government markets. The company plans to offer the bus as a lower cost alternative to its traditional designs, Robert Lightfoot, the head of Lockheed Martin’s space business, said during a lunch meeting with reporters on the sidelines of the Satellite 2022 conference. 

Focus for early-stage space companies turning to workforce challenges (3/21): Attracting and retaining talent is becoming a bigger concern for the space industry than securing investments, according to early-stage space investors speaking at the Satellite 2022 conference. There are currently about 200,000 job openings in the aerospace sector, according to Michael Mealing, a partner at space investor Starbridge Venture Capital. He told conference delegates that space companies are being forced to search non-traditional sources for talent, including companies with early retirement programs.

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