Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 1st, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA plans International Space Station (ISS) robot arm operations to overcome an external solar power issue aboard the six person orbiting science lab that has prompted a delay this week in the launch of a NASA contracted SpaceX cargo mission.  China and Pakistan sign a space cooperation agreement. Some believe it’s time to restore Pluto’s planet status. 

Human Space Exploration

Space Station power problem delays CRS-17 Dragon launch (4/30): SpaceX’s 17th NASA contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed from an early Wednesday liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, until no sooner than early Friday to provide time for NASA ISS program personnel and astronauts aboard the six person orbiting lab time to deal with a failed external Main Bus Switching Unit. There are four of the units, each distributing power across two solar power networks. Repairs using the Station’s Canadian robot arms are planned. The difficulty affects power to the robot arm, which is also used by Station astronauts to grapple the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule once it rendezvous with the Station. Under NASA flight rules for the grapple, the arm must have a primary and backup power source for the operation. A Friday liftoff would occur at 3:11 a.m., EDT.

China, Pakistan sign agreement on space exploration

Outlook of India (4/29): China and Pakistan signed an agreement April 27 laying plans to cooperate in space science and exploration, including astronaut training. The agreement follows a recent Indian anti satellite test that some experts characterized as an attempt to demonstrate India’s space prowess among nations in the region.


Space Science

Should Pluto be a planet again? Informal vote offers support after experts debate (4/30): In 2006, the International Astronomical Union withdrew distant Pluto’s designation as a solar system planet. However, a recent discussion hosted by the Philosophical Society of Washington reveals support for a turnaround. NASA’s New Horizons mission, which conducted the first every close flyby of Pluto in July 2015, collected observations showing Pluto sports large mountains, a thin atmosphere and other features that render it planet like.


Other News

NASA says aluminum fraud caused $700 million satellite failures

Bloomberg (4/30): NASA on Tuesday announced the outcome of an investigation involving a unit of Norsk Hydro ASA, a prominent supplier of aluminum, into the loss of two climate science mission satellites. Faulty materials led to the loss of the 2009 launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory and 2011 Glory mission, each assigned to a Taurus XL launch vehicle.

Pushback continues as Air Force prepares to request bids for space launch services

Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (4/28): The U.S. House Armed Services Committee and the Air Force appear deadlocked over an ongoing launch services contract competition. Committee Chair Adam Smith believes the military is proceeding with haste. Air Force Sec. Heather Wilson has responded that the Pentagon must proceed in order to meet a congressional deadline for obtaining launch services independent of those including Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine, which has been flying as part of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5. Those competing include ULA, SpaceX, and new entrants Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

X-37B military space plane’s latest mystery mission passes 600 days

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (4/30): The winged reusable U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane fleet’s fifth Earth orbital mission continues at more than 600 days, mostly under a veil of secrecy. The military’s two shuttle-like spacecraft were built by Boeing, launch vertically and land on a runway.

China launches mapping satellites (4/30): A Chinese Long March 4B rocket launched a pair of Tianhui satellites for land surveys and science experiments late Monday, according to Beijing’s Xinhua news agency.

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