Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 14th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Legislation that could prevent another partial U.S. government shutdown emerged late Wednesday for action by both houses of Congress and the White House. NASA Stennis restarts RS-25 testing. NASA ends record Opportunity rover mission at Mars. SpaceX protests NASA launch services contract award for Jupiter asteroid mission.



Congress rushes to avert shutdown amid hopeful signs from Trump

Politico (2/13): Congressional negotiators worked late Wednesday on budget legislation intended to avoid another partial government shutdown on Friday, the final day of a temporary spending measure signed into law on January 25. Votes on the measure attempting to address differences between the House and Senate with the White House on immigration policy and other issues must go before the Senate and House before it moves to President Trump for signature. The President has stated wishes to avoid another shutdown. NASA and NOAA are among the civil government agencies forced to weather a record partial shutdown that ended on January 25. Current sticking points include whether to pay federal contract workers for the 35 day December/January partial shutdown.


Human Space Exploration

NASA Stennis restarts RS-25 testing after December abort

Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne (2/13): Following a quick end to a hot-fire test two months ago, NASA’s test team at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi run RS-25 Development Engine 0525 in the A-1 test stand again on Wednesday. The last test on December 12 was manually cut off after only thirty seconds, coincident with a fire observed near the engine powerhead.

Wednesday’s test was the eighth in the “Retrofit 1b” series for prime contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne’s production restart program. Four RS-25s will power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage and Aerojet Rocketdyne is using modern, updated manufacturing techniques aimed at reducing the production cost of new engines.


Space Science

NASA says farewell to Oppy (2/13): Oppy is the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars in January 2004 for what was to be a 90 day mission and just three weeks after its twin, Spirit, also landed at the Red Planet. Together, the two rovers assessed the history of the Martian environment, revealing evidence of a warmer, wetter solar system body in the past. Wednesday, NASA ended efforts to communicate with Opportunity, which went silent in late June 2018, the casualty of a global dust storm. Oppy and Sprit explored far beyond their 90 day primary missions. Spirit’s roving ended in 2010.

Requiem for a Rover (2/13): Gathered in “The Darkroom” above Mission Operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, members of the Opportunity team sombrely awaited news of what was to become of their dear rover. But they all knew why they were there.

Six things to know about NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2/13): NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover is leaving a legacy, operations exceeding 14 years and a total distance traveled on another planetary body of more than 28 miles.

There’s evidence that Mars is still volcanically active

Universe Today (2/13): Evidence for current volcanic activity on Mars is indirect. But researchers say there is evidence of a submerged body of water perhaps a dozen miles across beneath Mars’ south pole. A salty content and current vulcanism are the best explanation for a thermal environment that would permit water in a liquid state, according to a study published in the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters.

NASA will launch a new space telescope in 2023 to investigate the universe (2/13): NASA announced plans to prepare a new mission, SPHEREx for launch in 2023, a space observatory developed to study how the universe evolved and to log the presence of water and organics, two factors required for the emergence of life. All told, SPHEREx will observe an estimated 100 million stars in the Milky Way and 300 million other galaxies. The mission cost is estimated at $242 million, minus launch costs.

CubeSat deployed from Space Station to test sample return technology (2/13): TechEdSat 8 is among a handful of small satellites deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) in January. It will demonstrate a steerable drag brake with a potential to return experiments to the Earth’s surface from low Earth orbit.


Other News

SpaceX protests NASA launch contract award

Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (2/13): On January 31, it was announced that NASA had selected United Launch Alliance (ULA) for an Atlas 5 launch of NASA’s Lucy mission, a planetary science initiative to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, a collection of small bodies that trail the solar system’s largest planet as it orbits the sun. Earlier this week, SpaceX filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the audit arm of Congress, claiming that the company founded by Elon Musk could have provided the launch services at a lower cost.

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