Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 11th, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA addresses Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal challenges this week with a revised countdown simulation strategy. Axiom Space’s Ax-1 astronauts arrived safely at the International Space Station.


Human Space Exploration

Citing valve problem, NASA will load only the SLS core stage in next countdown test
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, United Launch Alliance (4/9): NASA plans to resume its Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) activities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) with some changes to the milestone launch pad countdown simulation. The changes follow two scrubs in the activities that got underway on April 1 and were to last two days, and some follow-on difficulties later in the week with a helium check valve in the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s upper stage. Starting Tuesday, the WDR will focus on the loading of liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants aboard the SLS core stage, rather than the core stage and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS). The actual propellant loading portion of the WDR is planned for Thursday. Once the simulation is complete and its outcome evaluated, NASA plans to target a launch date for Artemis I, an uncrewed test flight of the rocket and the Orion crew capsule around the Moon and back to Earth for recovery. 

Ax-1 crew arrives safely at Space Station
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (4/9): Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission, the first all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) arrived at its orbital destination on Saturday at 8:29 a.m. EDT, following launch a day before from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) with Mike Lopez-Alegria, Axiom executive and retired NASA astronaut; Ohio businessman Larry Connor; Eytan Stibbe, of Israel; and Canadian Mark Pathy. Their eight-day stay is to include a range of medical and science activities as well as outreach and engagement. They were welcomed aboard by NASA’s Tom Marshburn, the ISS commander, and his six U.S., European, and Russian crewmates. Axiom plans more private astronaut missions to the ISS and the assembly of a private space station beginning in 2024.


Space Science

Is the origin of dark matter gravity itself? (4/10): Mysterious dark matter is believed to account for 80 percent of all matter in the universe. But its origins, composition, and the role it played in the expansion of the early universe remain a mystery. Two researchers from the Helsinki Institute of Physics propose that a combination of forces may have led to the formation of dark matter as the early expansion of the universe drew to a close and before normal matter appeared.

Surprise geomagnetic storm (4/10): Sunday offered a bit of a surprise for those in the northern border states of the U.S. as the Earth’s magnetic field responded to a strong Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). Bright aurorae flared in the darkened skies from New Hampshire to Washington State. The solar flare reached the Earth on Friday and the belated auroral activity was a bit of a surprise.


Other News

House committee leaders ask White House to withdraw proposed NTSB regulations on commercial launch investigations (4/10): U.S. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank Lucas, the chair and ranking member of the House Science Committee, have asked the Biden Administration to withdraw a proposed rule suggesting investigations of commercial spaceflight failures by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The proposal would require companies experiencing failures of launches licensed by the FAA to notify the NTSB, and would grant the NTSB authority to investigate. Johnson, Lucas and others have joined with those in the industry who believe it would duplicate existing FAA regulations and impose a “negative effect” on commercial launch industry growth. 

Space Development Agency to accelerate deployment of missile-tracking satellites
Coalition Member in the News – L3Harris (4/10): Two additional launches need to be funded in 2023 to accelerate the deployment of a $2.5 billion missile tracking constellation, according to Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency (SDA). The change is intended to move up deployments from 2026 to 2025. “The Tracking Layer is envisioned as a global network of eyes in the sky that would provide a defensive shield against Russian and Chinese ballistic and hypersonic missiles,” reports. “As many as 100 satellites are planned to be added to the Tracking Layer over the next five years.”


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of April 10-16, 2022 (4/10): Major activities underway this week include NASA’s Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Tuesday marks the 61st anniversary of the first human spaceflight, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s orbit of the Earth, on April 12, 1961, which many celebrate annually with “Yuri’s Night.” The four NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) Crew Dragon-3 astronauts are to host a news briefing on Friday at 1:15 p.m. EDT, prior to their upcoming return to Earth. The briefing will air on NASA-TV and stream on Their Crew Dragon- 4 replacements are scheduled to launch no earlier than April 21. China’s three current Tianhe space station crew members could return to Earth this week as well. They launched on October 15. The U.S. House and Senate are in recess this week and next.

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