Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 25th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A U.S. Senate bid Thursday to end a record partial U.S. government shutdown failed. Russian space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin receives a scolding over agency performance issues. Blue Origin will break ground Friday in Huntsville, Alabama, on a new BE-4 rocket engine production facility.

Human Space Exploration

Senators negotiate in hopes of ending shutdown as dueling plans fail 

Washington Post (1/24): Congressional anxiety over a record partial U.S. government shutdown, underway since December 22 over a failure to reach an agreement with the White House over southern border security, mounted late Thursday after two Senate measures to end a stalemate failed. One backed the border wall favored by President Trump, the other omitted the controversial wall. An estimated 800,000 employees of civilian agencies that include NASA and NOAA will miss out on a second paycheck Friday as a result of the shutdown.

Russian space chief told to drop grandiose talk, get more done

Ars Technica (1/24): Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev presented Dmitry Rogozin, chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, with a scolding this week over largely inherited and lingering agency performance issues. Each incident, like the Soyuz launch abort in October with two U.S. and Russian International Space Station (ISS) crew members aboard, has been exacerbated by declining orders for commercial services and funding problems. Still to come, the U.S. this year plans to re-establish a human launch capability, lost with the shuttle fleet’s 2011 retirement, through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Currently, Russia’s three person Soyuz offers the only means of transport crew to and from the Space Station, at more than $80 million a seat.

Falcon 9 rocket fires engines in key test ahead of Crew Dragon demo flight (1/24): SpaceX on Thursday test fired the Falcon 9 launch vehicle assigned to the first test flight of the booster with the Crew Dragon, a preliminary step in a mission to launch an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under the pre-certification requirements of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The actual launch is possible as soon as late February, according to the report.


Space Science

NASA’s storm-silenced rover marks 15th anniversary on Mars

Associated Press via New York Times (1/24): NASA’s Opportunity rover has been silenced on Mars since late June due to a global dust storm that interrupted solar power generation and communications with Earth. Thursday marked the 15th anniversary of the rover’s landing. Opportunity was developed for a 90 day mission, but kept on going and exploring until the dust storm. The storm has cleared, and mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) continue to hold out some hope of re-establishing communications.


Other News

Colorado-built Dream Chaser, successor to the space shuttle, turning into reality

Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance

Denver Post (1/23): Soon, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft will join with those of Northrop Grumman Space Systems and SpaceX in delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The winged Dream Chaser, however, will bring a new capability to the Space Station partnership with a capability to bring cargoes back from the Space Station and deliver them to runways. The craft cleared NASA’s critical design review process in December. Sierra and its competitors were awarded Space Station resupply contracts by NASA in 2016, and the Dream Chaser is to launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 on its first delivery in late 2020. Someday, the reusable Dream Chaser could be launching human crews to Earth orbit.

European Commission, fearing brain drain to U.S., takes sharper look at space investment strategy (1/24): The European Commission will respond to concerns that domestic space startups are finding a more favorable economic environment in the U.S. than in Europe. In response, the European Commission is assessing three strategies, an investment fund; a European Space Agency initiative to back in space tech demonstrations; and a substantial small launch services company cash award.

Blue Origin breaking ground in Huntsville Friday

WAFF-TV of Huntsville Alabama (1/23): Blue Origin breaks ground Friday in Huntsville, Alabama, on production facilities for the BE-4 rocket engine, whose users will also include the launch services provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA). The project is to produce 800 new jobs.

Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson talks up spacesuits and his countdown to space trip (1/24): Virgin’s founder Richard Branson said SpaceShipTwo could be flying to suborbital space with passengers routinely this year from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Branson spoke Thursday during an appearance on CBS This Morning that featured plans by the company to partner with Under Armor to create a space suit.

India debuts new version of workhorse PSLV (1/24): India on Thursday introduced a new variant of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) equipped with two strap on solid rocket boosters and an upper stage experiment platform. The payload included a military imaging satellite. The launch occurred in darkness.

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