Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 11th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The White House budget request for the 2020 fiscal year goes to Congress on Monday. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is to update NASA workers on the agency’s Moon/Mars human exploration plans. NASA/SpaceX mark a favorable end to their six day Demo-1 test flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

Human Space Exploration

NASA’s 2020 budget request aims to speed lunar exploration

Wall Street Journal (3/9): The White House is set to submit its 2020 fiscal year budget proposal to Congress on Monday. The spending plan would increase spending on NASA’s efforts to make a sustained return to the Moon with U.S. commercial partners, placing astronauts on the surface by 2024, four years earlier than the current goal, according to the report, which cites sources familiar with the strategy. The spending plan calls for a transition of NASA’s oversight of the International Space Station (ISS) to the private sector by 2025, a deadline Congress has previously opposed. The 2020 fiscal year begins October 1. (Editor’s note:  This story is behind a paywall.  The President’s budget request – which includes the request for NASA – is scheduled to be released today at 11:30 am. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will deliver an address on the agency’s “Moon to Mars” plans at 1 pm today. You can watch live at We will have full coverage in DSE tomorrow.)

NASA’s Deep Space Exploration System is coming together

NASA (3/8): In an update, NASA offers assurances it is aiming for a 2020 launch date of Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), an uncrewed first test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule on a multi-week trek around the Moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery. With success, NASA would repeat the test flight, Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) with astronauts on board the Orion by 2023. In the near term, the Orion capsule for EM-1 will undergo thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. In June, NASA plans the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) test flight from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The post launch abort without crew aboard is planned at an altitude of 31,000 feet to demonstrate the ability of SLS/Orion astronauts to avoid a rocket disaster.

SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship splashes down at end of crucial Space Station trip

Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, United Space Alliance (3/8): The NASA Commercial Crew program’s six day, Demo-1 mission, with an uncrewed SpaceX capsule, concluded Friday with an automated undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) and an Atlantic Ocean splashdown.

ISRO with NASA’s help can send astronauts to ISS: U.S. space envoy

Times of India (3/8): If it desires, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) could work with NASA to place its own astronauts and research aboard the International Space Station (ISS), according to Charles Bolden, the former NASA administrator serving as U.S. Science Envoy in New Delhi.

Chinese space exploration needs female astronauts: Chinese expert

ECNS (3/8): China is finding that women astronauts possess qualifications, including emotional stability and an ability to cope with loneliness as well as physical qualities that may make them space exploration compatible, according to a domestic expert in science and space technology.


Space Science

Cut the science budget? Not so fast

New York Times (3/11): The President proposes and Congress disposes. So goes the standard description of the constitutional process by which our republic is governed. Judging from the news headlines, you might think this process has not been friendly lately to the scientific community. Again and again, the Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts to the research budgets of the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, NASA and other agencies. Quietly, however, Congress often has gone the other way and handed out increases.

If we blow up an asteroid, it might put itself back together

New York Times (3/8): Smashing into an asteroid on a course to destructively impact the Earth may be the wrong strategy for avoiding a disaster, according to experts. With enough advance warning, the best strategy might be to divert the course of the object so that it passes by the Earth at a safe separation. The premise is backed by simulations.

Critical weather data threatened by FCC ‘spectrum’ proposal, Commerce Dept. and NASA say

Washington Post (3/8): FCC regulated radio frequencies, desired by commercial wireless providers, could jeopardize the flow on critical weather information if reallocated, according to the heads of the U.S. Commerce Department and NASA. 


Other News

FCC publishes draft debris mitigation rules

Parabolic Arc (3/9): With the approach of new mega low Earth orbit satellite constellations, the FCC has drafted proposed changes to help ward off a threat from a growing space debris environment. Changes would specify spacecraft maneuver requirements; disclosure of space rendezvous and proximity operations capabilities; and end of life thresholds that require spacecraft disposal. Posted in the Federal Register, the changes are open for comment until April 5.

China developing key technologies on heavy-lift rocket

Xinhuanet of China (3/10): A key to future Chinese deep space exploration, the Long March-9 launch vehicle, is progressing toward an initial flight in 2030. Planned activities include human lunar and Mars sample return missions 

ArianeGroup says Ariane 6 enters crucial development phase as French auditor warns against SpaceX (3/8): Nearing the end of development, potentially by the end of this year, the European ArianeGroup’s new Ariane6 rocket may not be as commercially competitive as intended, according to an assessment from French auditors. CNES, the French space agency, is a key financial backer of the development.

Flight trials of Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket to be completed in 2019

TASS of Russia (3/9): Russia’s Soyuz-2.1V rocket, a replacement for the Soyuz U, is slated to complete flight trials by the end of this year, according to developers. The Soyuz U has launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome from 1973 through 2012 435 times. The 2.1-v trials began in 2013.

China launches new communication satellite

Xinhuanet of China (3/10): The broadcast communications satellite for services across China and the South Pacific was launched Sunday atop a Long March-3B rocket.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of March 10-16, 2019 (3/10): The White House submits its 2020 fiscal year budget request to Congress on Monday, just before NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is to update employees on the agency’s Moon, Mars exploration plans from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 1 p.m., EDT. Thursday afternoon is to mark the launch of NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Hague and Ovchinin were aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket that safely aborted October 11 two minutes into its flight to the Space Station. The U.S. House Science, Space and Technology and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committees are to hold simultaneous hearings on the nation’s space future on Wednesday at 10 a.m., EDT.

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