Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 25th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA astronaut Anne McClain, joined by Canadian and Russian crew mates returned safely to Earth late Monday, following a 204 day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA seeks proposals for a space station commercial module.  Pentagon faces changes in space leadership.

Human Space Exploration

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, crewmates return from Space Station mission
NASA (6/24): U.S., Canadian and Russian International Space Station (ISS) crew members Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Kononenko descended safety to Earth late Monday in remote Kazakhstan, ending a 204 day mission. Their Russian Soyuz spacecraft touched down in remote Kazakhstan at 10:47 p.m., EDT. McClain and Saint-Jacques were to be flown by NASA jet to Houston, Texas, home to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Kononenko to Star City, Russia.

NASA seeks proposals for commercial ISS modules (6/24): Last Friday, NASA issued a call for proposals from the private sector to add a commercial module to the International Space Station (ISS), part of the agency’s latest efforts to spur low Earth orbit economic growth. If the strategy works, the module would join the Station at a Harmony module docking port. NASA plans to enter into one or more concept development agreements and may fund early design work. The commercial module addition is planned for no later than September 2024. An additional solicitation is anticipated this summer for possible low Earth orbit commercial free flyer destinations. The preparations are part of a plan by NASA to transition its oversight of human exploration from low Earth orbit to deep space, while becoming one of many customers of commercial low Earth orbit services.

NanoRacks, Zero G Kitchen, and DoubleTree by Hilton announce cookies in space program: The first-ever space oven and microgravity baking experiment
Nanoracks (6/24): NanoRacks, approached by Zero G Kitchen about a year ago, has developed  the first ever space oven, a device that will permit astronauts to prepare recipes in space rather than warm up meals prepared on Earth. Zero G also approached DoubleTree by Hilton with the idea of a baking experiment using one of the company’s chocolate chip cookies. The oven and cookie dough are to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

Space Science

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launches on 3rd mission
New York Times (6/25): SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy mission launched early Tuesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) with a payload that included two dozen satellites for the Department of Defense (DoD) and other customers, including NASA. Among NASA’s was a space Atomic Clock, an evaluation of a more environmentally friendly spacecraft propellant. The launch also kicked off the second test flight of the Planetary Society’s Light Sail, which will depend on a push from solar photons to gradually raise its orbital altitude.

Raikoke erupts
NASA Earth Observatory (6/24): After a long pause, the Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean erupted on June 22 with some fury and a column of ash visible to orbiting satellites and astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Other News

Space in transition as DoD leaders depart in quick succession (6/24): Three key players in Department of Defense (DoD) space reorganization, policy and procurement stepped down late last week. Those departing were acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan; John Stopher, the top space adviser to the Secretary of the Air Force; and Fred Kennedy, director of the Space Development Agency.

How low can launch costs go?
The Space Review (6/24): For the foreseeable future, a round trip voyage to Earth orbit is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars, and remain in the millions of dollars range over time, even as more launch services become available.

China launches latest Beidou satellite for global navigation system (6/24): The launch Monday, U.S. time, of a Chinese Long March 3B rocket placed the latest member of China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. It is the 21st satellite in the Beidou third phase.

Rocketeers from University of Washington take the prize at Spaceport America Cup (6/24): The University of Washington’s Society for Advanced Rocket Propulsion took the top prize over the weekend at this year’s Spaceport America Cup. More than 120 teams competed in the design, assembly and flight of a rocket to 10,000 feet and 30,000 feet, depending on the contest category. The University of Washington team prevailed after previous disappointing setbacks.

Apollo 11

On Apollo 11, how did Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin become first men on Moon? It was Deke Slayton’s call
Orlando Sentinel (6/24): Deke Slayton, one of NASA’s Mercury 7 astronauts, was grounded by a heart ailment until he could join the NASA crew for the historic Apollo Soyuz mission of 1975, three years after he was cleared medically to launch. While he was grounded, Slayton assigned NASA spaceflight crews, including Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Slayton died in 1993. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing approaches on July 20.

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