Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 2nd, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion Launch Abort System underwent a critical test early this morning. The hardware is an essential part of U.S. efforts to return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 with human explorers, where they are to establish a sustainable presence to prepare for the future exploration of Mars.

Human Space Exploration

Critical abort test of NASA’s Orion crew capsule (7/1): Ascent Abort 2, NASA’s test flight of the Launch Abort System for the Orion/Space Launch System crews that are launched into deep space occurred at 7 a.m., EDT, this morning. The three minute flight sent the uncrewed Orion capsule about six miles into the skies over Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida, where the abort system atop the spacecraft fired pulling the capsule away from Peacekeeper first stage. In a real emergency, the automated escape system would be triggered by a rocket failure. Once clear of the troubled rocket, the Orion capsule would re-orient and deploy parachutes so the spacecraft and it crew could descend onto the ocean waters. To watch a replay of the test flight,

Orion capsule’s Launch-Abort System: How it works (7/1): Less than a minute after liftoff, NASA’s Orion Launch Abort System is designed to fire with 400,000 pounds of thrust to pull the spacecraft and its crew of astronauts away from its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in case of an early in flight emergency. Tuesday’s test will substitute a U.S. Air Force Peacekeeper first stage for the SLS and the capsule will be uncrewed but laden with sensors radioing and storing data so the performance of the lifesaving system can be assessed.

Why the next Space Policy Directive needs to be to the Secretary of Energy
The Space Review (7/1): Perhaps a surge in the global space economy will come from potential lunar resources. And perhaps, the strongest challenge for making use of those resources will come from China.

Gaganyaan: India chooses Russia to pick & train astronaut
Time of India (7/1): The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has chosen Russia to medically evaluate and train its astronauts for spaceflight.

Space Science

NASA’s InSight uncovers the ‘mole’
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (7/1): NASA has commanded the Mars InSight lander to expose the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, also known as “the mole” which is partially submerged in the Martian subsurface but stuck well above its intended data gathering destination. Working with its partners in Germany, NASA hopes to diagnose why the HP3 has not been able to dig down to 16 feet, something no other Martian spacecraft has attempted. InSight landed on Mars in late November.

Astronomers see evidence of supermassive black holes forming directly in the early universe
Universe Today (6/29): So, it should take ages for black holes to grow into super massive black holes, the enormously massive objects that reside at the center of most galaxies including the Milky Way. Canadian researchers believe they’ve found an explanation for evidence of super massive black holes that formed relatively early in the universe.

Other News

U.S. Space Command’s major components will be based in California and Colorado (6/30): The headquarters for the new U.S. Space Command has not been announced. However, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs will house major components. Vandenberg will support military commanders around the world with space services such as GPS-based navigation, space-based data, satellite communications and missile warning. Schriever will be co-located with the National Space Defense Center and will be responsible for protecting military satellites on orbit.

Who will actually be the first to get commercial passe?
Gentlemen’s Quarterly (6/30): A look at the efforts and progress SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are making in the launch of paying customers to space.

China plans to deploy almost 200 AI-controlled satellites into orbit
Sputnik International (7/1): By 2021, China plans to launch 192 self-piloting satellites for Earth observation, and specifically to monitor the environment, disaster management and traffic management.

Satellite operators mull options as pressure for Ka band uplink spectrum mounts
Space News (7/1): Globally, commercial communications satellite operators are wondering if there is enough Ka band spectrum at 28 gigahertz to go around.

Apollo 11

Former NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz restores Mission Control in Houston
NPR Illinois (6/30): As an early NASA flight director, Gene Kranz led Mission Control when the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down 50 years ago this July 20 on the Moon. Kranz also famously watched over the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew. In retirement, he was motivated to help lead the restoration of those Mission Operations facilities at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to appear to tourists just as they did when those and other historic events in human spaceflight took place.

Astronomers and Apollo
The Space Review (7/1): Yes, they were amazing pilots, but NASA’s Apollo mission crews were also well drilled in astronomy and planetary science. The geology of Arizona was especially valuable in preparing the Apollo crews to navigate and explore at the Moon.

Introducing a new generation of kids to the Apollo program
New York Times (7/1): Those with the urge can find a history of NASA’s Apollo program and America’s drive to place the first human explorers on the surface of the Moon in the 1960’s and early 1970’s in a collection of books written for pre-teens.

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