Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 19th, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… An unfavorable weather outlook prompts a brief delay in the return of the Ax-1 mission. NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter celebrates one year of flight. The U.S. self-imposes ban on destructive anti-satellite tests.


Human Space Exploration

Schedule effects of SLS rollback still uncertain (4/18):  Workers are preparing to roll back the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), with the move from the pad to the VAB tentatively scheduled for April 26. In the VAB, technicians will work to fix a hydrogen leak found in the April 14 test and fix a faulty helium check valve in the rocket’s upper stage found during an earlier attempt at Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR). How long the SLS will remain in the VAB remains uncertain. There are three options NASA is considering for its next attempt at the test. A first option would be repairing the hydrogen leak and replacing the check valve before rolling back to the pad for another WDR. A second option would add additional work that NASA needs to complete before launch that had been planned for after the WDR. A third option would get the vehicle ready for flight in the VAB, then roll out for a WDR followed by the Artemis I launch without going back to the VAB. The April 26 rollback makes it unlikely the SLS would be ready to launch in a window that runs from June 6 to 16. NASA officials said the next window opens June 29 and runs through July 12, with a cutout between July 2 and 4.

Private Ax-1 mission’s ISS departure delayed to Tuesday evening
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (4/18): The departure of the Axiom-1 (Ax-1) mission from the International Space Station (ISS), the first visit by an all-private crew, was delayed from early Tuesday to about 10 p.m. EDT. NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom announced the change Monday afternoon stating it was due to weather conditions forecast for the landing zone in the waters off the Florida coast. If weather conditions do not prompt another change, the Ax-1 crew would splash down in their Crew Dragon capsule on Wednesday afternoon, no earlier than 3:24 p.m. EDT.

Crew-4 astronauts make final stop at Kennedy Space Center before launching to the ISS
Spectrum News 13 (4/18): Prepared to launch on Saturday at 5:26 a.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), NASA astronauts Kjell Kindgen, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins along with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti arrived at KSC on Monday. The mission sending four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) is not only further proving out capabilities of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), but also breaking new ground for NASA. Among the crew is first-time flier Dr. Jessica Watkins, known to her crew mates by the nickname “Watty.” When she arrives at the ISS, she will become the first Black woman to conduct a long-duration flight aboard the ISS.

Cosmonauts complete spacewalk to activate Space Station’s European robotic arm (4/18): Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev conducted a more than six-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station’s (ISS) Russian segment on Monday to install a control panel for the new European robotic arm. The robotic arm was launched in July 2021 as part of Russia’s Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The spacewalkers also removed thermal protection and installed handrails and an attachment fixture for a payload platform for the robotic arm, which is equipped with two grapple fixtures. The European robotic arm will provide external access to regions of the ISS’s Russian segment that cannot be reached with the older Canadian and Japanese robotic arms.


Space Science

Mars scientists look to less expensive missions (4/18): The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) decadal survey on planetary science and astrobiology priorities in the decade to come is due for public release on Tuesday. The survey is unlikely to urge another high-cost mission to Mars, perhaps in light of budgetary challenges of another large mission similar to a Mars sample return. Already a potential budget casualty due to cost is the International Mars Ice Mapper, a NASA-led orbital mission with international partners to seek out subsurface ice deposits with a radar.

Happy anniversary, Ingenuity! Mars helicopter flew for the 1st time one year ago today (4/19): One year ago today, an aircraft flew on a world beyond Earth for the first time. That history-making vehicle is NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which landed inside the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater with the Perseverance rover on February 18, 2021. Just over two months later, the 4-pound Ingenuity made its first foray into the Martian skies, hovering about 10 feet above the red dirt of a site named Wright Brothers Field. With that 39-second sortie, Ingenuity showed that aerial exploration is possible on Mars, which has an atmosphere just 1% as dense as that of Earth at sea level.


Other News

U.S. declares ban on anti-satellite missile tests, calls for other nations to join (4/18) Speaking at Vandenberg Space Force Base on Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the U.S. is imposing on itself a ban on direct ascent anti-satellite missile tests that create orbital debris. Harris said the move is intended to initiate an international ban on such testing to help establish new norms for responsible behavior in space. In mid-November Russia conducted such a test that was widely condemned as large numbers of debris crossed the orbit of the seven-person International Space Station (ISS). The debris from a 2007 anti-satellite test by China produced debris fragments that are still in orbit. Harris chairs the White House National Space Council.

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