Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 3rd, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… SpaceX offers new details regarding a destructive April 20 incident in which Crew Dragon abort thrusters were being prepared for an upcoming flight test. Efforts to launch the company’s 17th NASA contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) early Friday were delayed. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is coming together. India looks to July for the launch of its next Moon mission.

Human Space Exploration

SpaceX clears cargo mission for launch, confirms destruction of crew capsule (5/2): While affirming plans to launch SpaceX’s 17th NASA contracted Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) early Friday, the company’s vice president of build and flight responsibility, Hans Koenigsmann, offered more details on a destructive April 20 ground thruster test of the Crew Dragon abort hardware at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The Crew Dragon capsule, which flew to the Space Station in March without a crew and returned to Earth as part of a flight test, was destroyed during the incident, he disclosed. The capsule was being prepared to launch again this summer as part of an uncrewed in flight Falcon 9 rocket abort test, a demonstration of its ability to pull an astronaut crew away should the capsule’s rocket experience a post liftoff failure. The investigation and cause of the incident appears likely to delay SpaceX’s efforts to obtain NASA Commercial Crew Program certification to begin transporting astronauts to and from the Space Station by the end of this year. The U.S. has not been able to launch astronauts since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

Drone ship power issue forces scrub of CRS-17 launch

NASA (5/3): SpaceX was minutes from launching its 17th NASA contracted Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, early Friday, when an electrical problem surfaced with the company’s offshore drone ship what serves as a landing site for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle first stage. The next opportunity to launch is Saturday at 2:48 a.m., EDT, should the issue be resolved.

NASA’s SLS rocket is moving toward assembly (5/2): Crews at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have moved the forward join, or forward part, of the massive core stage for NASA’s SLS in preparation for its final assembly and integration to the liquid hydrogen tank. In a change from the previous core stage assembly plan, technicians and engineers will mate the forward join with the liquid hydrogen tank horizontally rather than vertically. This revised approach of mating the two critical components allows technicians and engineers to finalize the outfitting and testing of the engine section concurrently. Combined with the use of new production tools, the new assembly process keeps core stage production on target for completion this year.


Space Science

A killer asteroid is coming. We don’t know when (so let’s be ready), Bill Nye says (5/2): The Planetary Society’s Bill Nye, once known as the Science Guy, believes many Earthlings are complacent when it comes to the threat posed by Near Earth Objects, the many asteroids and comets whose travels around the sun cross or come near the Earth’s orbital track. Speaking this week at the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference at the University of Maryland, Nye said that while remote in a single lifetime, future impacts are inevitable and it’s urgent that we identify the threats.

Martian dust could help explain water loss, plus other learnings from global storm

NASA Goddard (5/2): The 2018 global Martian dust storm claimed NASA’s long running and scientifically productive Opportunity rover. However with eight other spacecraft either in orbit or on the Red Planet’s surface, the massive storm provided scientists with an opportunity to assess how Mars dust may have influenced the environment in the past and will in the future. Goddard researchers believe the dust may have played a significant role in absence of water that once ponded and streamed across the surface. Findings appear in the journal Nature.

India likely to land on Moon on September 6 

Times of India (5/2): The India Space Research Organization (ISRO) is targeting July for the launch of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission. The orbiter, lander and rover, expected to reach the Moon in September, have been developed to study the lunar surface at the south pole. The mission is a follow on to India’s Chandrayaan-1, a lunar orbiter that was scientifically successful between 2008 and 2009.


Other News

Progress continues on Dream Chaser space plane

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (4/26): Sierra Nevada is making strides in preparing its winged, reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft to join SpaceX’s Dragon and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus in the uncrewed delivery of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Dream Chaser is alone in its ability to return from the Space Station with research and other hardware with a runway landing.

Blue Origin reaches space again on latest New Shepard test flight (5/2): Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket completed an 11th suborbital test flight early Thursday with a liftoff from West Texas. The 10 minute flight included NASA experiments and tech demonstrations intended to advance future human deep space exploration, while advancing the Kent, Washington, company’s goal of launching passengers by the end of this year. The New Shepard rocket and capsule flew for a fifth time and were recovered after each landed independently near the launch site.

House appropriators press for details on Space Force cost and organization (5/1): During a hearing this week, the U.S. House Appropriation’s Defense Subcommittee asked for more details on the long term costs of establishing a Space Force, a new U.S. Space Command and Space Development Agency. Panel member said they wish to pass a Defense Bill for the 2020 fiscal year before it begins October 1, but warned a failure to provide the cost estimate may trigger a delay. The Space Force is to reside within the U.S. Air Force, much the way the Marine Corps is part of the Navy.

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