Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 12th, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Aerojet Rocketdyne to supply 116 new engines for ULA’s Vulcan rocket. Moog opens spacecraft integration facility.

Human Space Exploration


NASA defends decision to proceed with modified SLS countdown test (4/12): During an April 11 briefing with media, NASA managers said they were ready to proceed with the third attempt at Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR), the final major test before the launch of Artemis I. On April 9, the agency had announced it was modifying the procedures for the next attempt at the test after discovering a faulty helium check valve in the rocket’s upper stage, saying it will perform only minimal propellant operations on that stage. “We believe that we’ll be able to meet the majority of our test objectives and provide us with a reasonably good set of data prior to rollback” to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) with this modified option, said NASA Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson during yesterday’s call. She and other officials argued that they will still get valuable data even though the test falls short of the original plan, where the core and upper stages are both fully loaded. Propellant loading is scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday, April 14.

Companies build up teams to compete for Artemis lunar rover
Coalition Members in the News – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Teledyne Brown (4/11): Over the past year, a handful of U.S. aerospace companies have unveiled efforts to develop lunar rovers for NASA’s Artemis mission astronauts. Partners in one of the efforts include Lockheed Martin, auto manufacturer General Motors, and MDA, developer of robotic arms for the International Space Station (ISS) and space shuttle. The Lockheed Martin team said it will include autonomous operations so that when astronauts are not present the vehicles can continue to drive and explore. Another industry group has also unveiled plans to develop a lunar rover. Teledyne Brown Engineering announced April 5 that it is working with Sierra Space and Nissan North America to propose a lunar terrain vehicle for astronauts. Teledyne Brown will lead the work on the rover, with Sierra Space providing flight software and components and Nissan its experience in automotive design and autonomous driving.

Space Science

An interstellar object exploded over Earth in 2014, declassified government data reveal (4/12): A U.S. Space Command memo reveals that on January 8, 2014, a small fast-moving object about 1 1/2 feet across and whose origins were beyond the solar system, entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over Papua New Guinea. The assessment was initially carried out in 2019 but not made public because some of the verification data was classified. The recent confirmation of the incident suggests the object originated in the thick disk of the Milky Way galaxy.

Neptune has been slowly cooling for 15 years when it should be warming
New Scientist (4/11): Neptune orbits the sun once every 165 Earth years. Though now two decades into its “southern summer,” the average temperature on Neptune has been cooling, a surprise, according to a University of Leicester-led research effort. There have been periodic warming trends, however, at the planet’s south pole, adding to the mystery, which may be linked to the sun’s 11-year solar activity cycle. Findings were published in the journal Planetary Science.


Other News

ULA orders 116 Aerojet Rocketdyne engines for Vulcan’s upper stage
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, United Launch Alliance (4/11): Aerojet Rocketdyne has received an order from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for 116 RL10C-X engines for the Vulcan Centaur rocket. Aerojet Rocketdyne said this was the company’s largest ever contract for the RL10 engine. The RL10C-X is a variant of the RL1o developed for Vulcan Centaur that uses a 3D-printed main injector and main combustion chamber. The purchase comes on the heels of Amazon’s announcement April 5 that it selected Arianespace, Blue Origin, and ULA to launch up to 3,236 satellites for its Project Kuiper broadband constellation.

A megaconstellation megadeal
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Beyond Gravity, Northrop Grumman, RUAG Space, United Launch Alliance
The Space Review (4/11): On April 5, Amazon announced a mega strategy for the launch of Project Kuiper, a broadband constellation of more than 3,200 satellites that will require a large amount of launches provided by Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA scored 38 of the launches using the company’s soon to debut Vulcan Centaur, more than ULA had booked at that point from all other customers. Certainly, good news for ULA, the deal will also double the U.S. launch industrial base, according to Tory Bruno, company CEO. The deal is good news for Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne, which will provide the Vulcan Centaur’s solid rocket boosters and RL-10 rocket engine that powers the Centaur upper stage. ULA will also use the opportunity to pursue its rocket engine recovery and reuse strategy.

Moog opens spacecraft-integration facility (4/11): Moog Inc. is quadrupling the size of its Colorado space vehicle production capacity as the New York-based company expands its role as a space vehicle integrator. Long known as a spacecraft component supplier, this year Moog is scheduled to integrate nine space vehicles in its new 8,800-square-meter facility in Arvada, Colorado, and its existing 3,000-square-meter plant nearby. The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening April 4 for the new Arvada facility. Now, the company is moving employees and components into the plant in preparation to begin production this summer.

Maxar eager to launch new satellite amid soaring demand for imagery over Ukraine
Coalition Member in the News – Maxar (4/11): Maxar and other commercial imagery companies have been working with U.S. intelligence agencies and allied governments since before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to track troop movements, and are providing imagery in support of humanitarian aid efforts. Maxar’s primary customers, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, more than doubled purchases of commercial electro-optical imagery over Ukraine since the conflict started. As Maxar’s satellites continue to collect images of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the company is working with customers so it can allocate more capacity to meet U.S. government needs, said Maxar’s CEO Daniel Jablonsky.

Space National Guard put on indefinite hold (4/11): The Department of the Air Force has presented a proposal to Congress that would not establish a U.S. Space Force dedicated reserve force called the Space National Guard. Instead, it would initiate a new approach to managing a reserve component of the Space Force. Active duty and reserve personnel would converge to provide full time and part time service options. Earlier, the Biden White House expressed opposition to creating a Space National Guard due to concerns over cost and unnecessary bureaucracy.

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