Today’s Deep Space Extra

December 14th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Northrop Grumman conducted the latest in a series of Orion abort motor test firing in the Utah desert. Virgin Galactic test pilots fly SpaceShipTwo to the fringes of space. One NASA spacecraft at Mars photographs a new arrival.

Human Space Exploration

From zero to 400 mph in two seconds, abort motor test ignites northern Utah sky

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman

Deseret News of Utah (12/13): At Northrop Grumman ground test facilities in Utah on Thursday, engineering managers oversaw a test of the launch abort rocket motor that would in a launch emergency lift NASA’s Orion crew capsule away from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Orion and the SLS are cornerstones of U.S. plans to resume human deep space exploration with missions, first to the moon, then to Mars and eventually other deep space destinations. The abort motor test was the latest in a series that began in 2008.


Space Science

Mars InSight lander seen in first images from space

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (12/13): NASA’s long lived Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has transmitted an image of the agency’s Mars InSight lander, which successfully touched down on November 26 to carry out unprecedented studies of the Martian subsurface.

Photos from Japan space rovers show rocky asteroid surface

Associated Press via New York Times (12/13): Japan’s Hayabusa 2 successfully dropped off a pair of rovers on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in September. The imagery they’ve gathered of a boulder and rock strewn surface, however, has raised concerns about the ability of the mother ship to touchdown on Ryugu’s surface for a sample collection session early next year. A collection session planned for October has already been delayed because of the rugged terrain on the asteroid.

NASA snaps first-ever photos from inside Jupiter’s rings

USA Today (12/13): NASA’s Juno spacecraft has snapped and transmitted the first images of giant Jupiter from inside the planet’s rings. Yes, Jupiter has rings. Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016.

NASA doesn’t have enough nuclear fuel for its deep space missions

Forbes (12/13): Distant NASA space missions like the Voyagers 1 and 2, which have traveled for decades depend on a nuclear power source, Plutonium 238. However, domestic production of the radioactive material ceased about three decades ago. Currently, all that remains is enough to power NASA’s 2020 Mars rover and perhaps a mission to Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon Europa. The U.S. turned to Russia for purchases but stockpiles there are diminishing as well.  Efforts in the U.S. to increase annual production have been slow to materialize.


Other News

Virgin Galactic accomplishes milestone test flight to the edge of space (12/13): Virgin Galactic’s Unity SpaceShipTwo reached space with two test pilots on Thursday, a milestone in the company’s efforts to establish a commercial suborbital passenger flight service. The pilots were Mark Stucky and C.J. Sturchow, a former NASA astronaut. They rocketed to an altitude of 271,268 feet, or 82.7 kilometers, or more than 51 miles, after being dropped from their airborne launcher, the WhiteKnightTwo, which took off and landed at the Mojave Air and Spaceport, of California.

Pentagon putting final touches on Space Force proposal (12/13): A plan to establish a Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military by 2020 is nearing conclusion, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told news reporters on Thursday. The blueprint now moves on to Vice President Mike Pence and the White House National Space Council for review prior to submission to the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

DARPA’s next project: Design a Space Development Agency (12/13): Fred Kennedy, director of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), has received instructions to lead a study effort to develop recommendations for the implementation of a new Space Development Agency. The effort is to spur space innovation within U.S. military space programs.

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