Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 22nd, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Happy Earth Day! United Launch Alliance begins stacking the Atlas V rocket ahead of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station. House appropriator promises to mark up NASA spending bill on schedule.


Human Space Exploration

ULA begins stacking Atlas 5 rocket for Boeing’s Starliner test flight
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, United Launch Alliance (4/21): Stacking of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that is to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) is underway at Cape Canaveral in preparation for a May liftoff. The flight is a second attempt at a December 2019 test flight in which the uncrewed Starliner reached orbit but was unable to dock with the ISS due to software concerns that have since been addressed. The upcoming test flight is to advance efforts for NASA to certify the Starliner spacecraft for the regularly scheduled transportation of astronauts to and from the orbital lab.

Can a retired space shuttle engine take us to Mars?
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, United Launch Alliance 
Popular Mechanics: Despite decades between crewed lunar launches, the Space Launch System (SLS) – the off-planet ride for NASA’s Artemis campaign to return humans to the lunar surface and later to land people on Mars – relies on a workhorse from the shuttle program. Mounted at the bottom of the core stage are four RS-25 engines, formerly called the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne. Originally designed in the 1970s, the engines are seasoned, upgraded veterans, with 25 previous space shuttle flights among them. Among the four engines mounted to the SLS are numbers 2045 and 2060, both used on July 8, 2011, to launch the shuttle’s final mission, STS-135. (This article may require a subscription to access)


Space Science

James Webb Space Telescope’s mirrors are cooling to deep space temperature (4/21): Launched December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mission continues to make progress during the chill down phase of its commissioning period. While the major science instruments have achieved their low temperature thermal objectives, the large primary mirror still has a ways to go. That’s because the 18 hexagonal segments of the primary mirror, as well as the secondary mirror, are all made of beryllium and coated with gold. At cryogenic temperatures, beryllium has a long thermal time constant, which means that it takes a long time to cool or to heat up.

Uranus by 2049: Here’s why scientists want NASA to send a flagship mission to the strange planet (4/21): Recent studies of exoplanets suggest that ice giants like Uranus may be more common across the galaxy than once believed. In response, the National Academies earlier this week urged further consideration of a mission to the large outer solar system planet in its latest planet and astrobiology decadal survey. The decadal proposes an orbiter and atmospheric probe concept for launch to Uranus in the early 2030s. NASA’s Voyager 2 mission flew by the planet in January 1986, discovering the presence of rings and moons.


Other News

House appropriator promises to mark up NASA spending bill on schedule (4/22): The chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA says he expects to develop spending bills on time this year but did not mention the level of support NASA will receive. Speaking at an Astrobotic April 20 event, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), who chairs the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, said he would work in a bipartisan manner to develop a fiscal year 2023 spending bill. “We’ll be making the hard choices but, you know, what we do on the appropriations committee is a product of compromise between Democrats and Republicans, between the House and the Senate,” he said. “We succeeded last year. We’ll succeed again in FY ’23.”

Chinese reusable rocket startup secures new funding round (4/22): China’s Deep Blue Aerospace has raised an undisclosed amount of funding to develop the reusable Nebula-1, a kerosene and liquid oxygen fueled rocket that will rely on additive manufacturing processes. The firm is targeting private launch contracts and a government satellite Internet project and the national space station program as possible revenue streams.



Celebrate Earth Day! For Earth Day, NASA will host a free, public event at Union Station’s Main Hall, located at 40 Massachusetts Ave. NE in Washington, Friday, April 22 through Sunday, April 24, from noon to 5 p.m. EDT. The event will feature information about NASA science, live demonstrations, and other activities. In conjunction with the in-person event, NASA also will host Earth Day online, with live events April 22 and site access through Monday, May 2. The virtual event will include live talks, conversations with scientists, a learning zone for students, and other activities. Some content also will be available in Spanish. To participate, visit:

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