Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 16th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Joined by several members of Congress, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans to speak on the agency’s lunar lander development strategy Friday afternoon. Thursday, the administrator toured the Michoud Assembly Facility to check out the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS). 

Human Space Exploration

Key Texas Congressional leaders object to NASA’s choice of MSFC to lead lunar program (8/15): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans a Friday afternoon announcement on the lunar lander elements of the Artemis initiative to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon by 2024. He’s to be joined at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) by members of Congress from Alabama and Texas. According to the report, there could be some disagreement over whether Marshall or NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) should take the overall lead in bringing the lunar orbital transfer, descent and ascent elements of the lander strategy together.

Top NASA official gets look at next Moon rocket
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Associated Press via Washington Post (8/15): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine strolled around the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s 212 foot long core stage at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans on Thursday. The long running effort with Boeing as the prime contractor to develop the SLS core stage with its propellant tanks and four rocket engines has overcome many obstacles and by year’s end will be on its way to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in neighboring Mississippi for several months of crucial ground tests, Bridenstine said. 

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Congratulates Sierra Nevada Corp. on selecting a launch provider for Dream Chaser launches
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance
Commercial Spaceflight Federation (8/15): Sierra Nevada Corp. has chosen wisely in selecting United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur as the launch vehicle for its future NASA contracted Dream Chaser cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS). The first of the resupply missions is planned for late 2021.

How SpaceX’s Starship will help establish a Mars base (8/15): At the recent Human to Mars Summit in Washington, SpaceX sketched out a plan and timeline for how its Starship rocket might support future human missions to the Moon and Mars. “SpaceX very much is a transportation company,” said Paul Wooster, the company’s principal Mars development engineer.

Space Science

NASA tests Mars 2020 rover prototype at Icelandic lava field (8/15): NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is preparing the Mars 2020 rover for a July/August 2020 launch to the red planet and a February 2021 landing at Jezero Crater, a possibly once habitable environment. There, the rover will gather and cache samples of surface material for an eventual return to Earth. In preparation, NASA took a prototype of the rover to the lava fields of Iceland for a check out in July.

NASA selects proposals to demonstrate smallsat technologies to study interplanetary space
NASA (8/15): NASA plans to evaluate small satellite technology demonstration options as part of the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe, which is planned for launch in October 2024. Those flight demonstration options which could help to lower the cost of deep space missions include optical communications; sensors for detection of energetic neutral solar atoms; an 18,000 square foot solar sail as a deep space propulsion source; and a coronagraph, a device to block bright star light to permit observations of subtle phenomena nearby the star.

China’s Chang’e-4 rover keeps snapping stunning photos of the Moon’s far side (8/15): In January, China’s Chang’e-4 mission became the first robotic spacecraft to land on the Moon’s far side. The mission includes a lander and the Yutu-2 rover, which have transmitted images of their surroundings back to Earth that offer views different from the Moon’s more familiar near side.

Other News

Eastern range updates ‘Drive to 48′ launches per year status
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (8/15): The U.S. Air Force reports progress towards its goal of supporting 48 launches annually from Florida’s Space Coast. Just last week, it supported the launches of a SpaceX Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V within 35 hours of one another. The Air Force is responsible for enforcing public safety, and one feature of an accelerated launch rate is an autonomous rather than a manual destruct system on the launch vehicles for activation if they were to stray off course.

Virgin Galactic unveils its spaceport as it prepares for its first commercial flight
Forbes (8/15): Virgin Galactic displayed company facilities Thursday at the state operated Spaceport America near Las Cruces, N.M., where it plans to soon complete testing of the White Knight Two and VMS Unity, the air and space craft that are to commercially launch passengers into suborbital space. 

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