Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 30th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks with workers to acknowledge government shutdown challenges. Europe looks to expand the role of a proposed orbital debris removal spacecraft.

Human Space Exploration

NASA leadership cautions recovery from shutdown will take time (1/29): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine addressed the agency’s coast to coast workforce from Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, explaining that a recovery from the record 35 day partial U.S. government shutdown that ended last Friday will take some time, likely longer than the shutdown itself. In all, 800,000 government workers were affected by a clash between the White House and Congress over immigration policy. Those furloughed and called up to work without pay are awaiting compensation. Back pay is coming to civil servants this week. Payments to contract personnel affected by the shutdown are being worked out on a case by case basis, a circumstance Bridenstine said he hopes can be corrected if there is a future shutdown.


Space Science

Significant progress made to upgrades that boost NASA’s space communications capabilities

Goddard Space Flight Center (1/29): NASA’s Space Network makes ground to low Earth orbit communications with astronauts and satellites possible. Currently, the ground station at White Sands, N.M., is undergoing modifications to make communications with the network’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites accommodate higher data rates and volumes, improve data quality and user coverage as well as reduce maintenance and extend life. Each upgrade is intended to improve science activities, including Hubble Space Telescope operations. The infrastructure upgrades have the potential to accommodate optical as well as radio communications.

Scientists prepare for mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa (1/29): Work continues at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on a spacecraft mission to Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon Europa. A mission that envisions a series of close flybys of the moon to assess its surface, ice cover and ocean makeup could launch as soon as 2023 aboard either the Space Launch System (SLS) or a perhaps a commercial alternative. The mission strategy must contend with Jupiter’s intense radiation in order to assess whether Europa is host to habitable environments.

The latest picture of Ultima Thule reveals a remarkably smooth face

Science News (1/29): The latest images from the January 1 NASA New Horizons spacecraft flyby of the distant Kuiper Belt Object, Ultima Thule, reveals a relatively smooth surface on the 20 mile long object. The dearth of crater impacts may help to explain how Ultima Thule and other KBOs came together to form the solar system’s planets.

Set your alarm for dawn (1/30): Just before sunrise on Thursday, the crescent Moon and bright Venus and Jupiter will share space near the horizon to the southeast.


Other News

White House: Space Force under the Air Force only a ‘first step,’ a separate department not off the table (1/28): The latest developments related to startup of a U.S. Space Force suggest the branch will form within the U.S. Air Force. Sometime in the future, however, it is to emerge as a separate branch of the U.S. military. Legislative and budget proposals are currently being formed within the Pentagon for submission to the White House and eventually for Congressional deliberations.

European space junk cleanup concept gets new mission: Refuel and repair (1/29): The European Space Agency’s (ESA) concept for an orbital debris removal spacecraft demonstration, e.Deorbit, has been given expanded duties that include satellite refueling, refurbishing and re-boosting. Plans to equip such a spacecraft for its many duties include a versatile robot arm. The ministers from ESA’s member states are to consider the $300 million Euro mission for development when they meet late this year.

U.S. military space plane wings past 500 days on latest mystery mission

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (1/29): The fifth flight of the Boeing developed X-37B space plane has surpassed 500 days of classified orbital activities on behalf of the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, with no indication yet of when it will return. Launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on September 7, 2017, the X-37B launched into its highest inclination orbit yet.

Team Zeva takes on a mission targeting the $2M GoFly Prize with a flying saucer!

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (1/29): Team Zeva, contender for Boeing’s $2 million GoFly Prize, established in 2017, believes its flying saucer shaped entry is the best way to address the volume restriction for a new generation of personal air vehicles. The competition is also open to flying motorcycles, jet packs and quad copters. More than 800 teams from around the world are competing in Phase 2 of GoFly.

China will attempt 30-plus launches in 2019, including crucial Long March 5 missions (1/29): On Tuesday, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, announced a goal to launch more than 50 spacecraft this year with at least 30 plus rocket launches. Those are to include the third launch of the Long March 5 in July. The heavy lift rocket failed in its second launch attempt in July 2017, delaying assembly of China’s planned space station and a bid to gather lunar samples and return them to Earth with the Chang’e 5 mission.

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