Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 19th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Administrator announces that the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) will oversee development of the Artemis lunar lander.

Human Space Exploration

MSFC wins lander program despite objections from JSC Congressional supporters (8/16): On Friday, NASA Administration Jim Bridenstine announced that the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) will oversee the development of a three component lunar lander to shuttle astronauts between a lunar orbiting Gateway and the lunar surface and do so in time to return human explorers to the surface by 2024. Three Texas lawmakers, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, whose district includes the Johnson Space Center (JSC), offered objections prior to the announcement, declaring that JSC is historically better suited to lead. The lander, which is to be developed under a public/private partnership, includes three components, individual transfer and descent/ascent vehicles. JSC will lead the ascent vehicle, which will include an astronaut habitat, under Marshall’s overall supervision, Marshall will lead the transfer and descent work. It’s unclear how Texas objections might influence legislative deliberations over NASA’s 2020 budget.

Space Science

NASA robots rove through caves for underground DARPA competition (8/18): An underground robotics competition, the Subterranean Challenge Systems Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is underway near Pittsburgh. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is one of 11 competitive teams. Advances may help in the search for evidence of life on distant planetary bodies as well as to develop new military and public safety technologies.

Were gravitational waves from a black-hole neutron-star merger detected on 14 August?
Physics World (8/16): Scientists believe they may have detected a distant black hole neutron star merger earlier this month using the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Advanced Virgo Detector, or LIGO-Virgo, detection network, which is positioned in Washington, Louisiana and Italy.

What secrets does Titan hold? (8/19): In late June, NASA announced it was developing a mission called Dragonfly to Titan, a moon of Saturn that may have habitable environments. The launch is planned for 2026.

Other News

Northrop Grumman becomes 1st commercial tenant of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (8/17): In ceremonies last Friday, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) welcomed Northrop Grumman as a tenant to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for assembly of the company’s new OmegA rocket, which the company is targeting for its first launch in 2021. The launch vehicle will also share use of a NASA Mobile Launch Platform at Kennedy.

China’s commercial carrier rocket Smart Dragon-1 makes maiden flight
Xinhuanet of China (8/17): China’s first commercial rocket, the Smart Dragon-1, launched for the first time on Saturday. Three satellites were placed in orbit, one each for communications, Earth observations and internet access. The solid propellant rocket is designed for commercial small satellite launches.

Making space exploration cool again – Op-Ed
The Hill (8/16): If the U.S. is to achieve enduring public support for human exploration plans, the strategy must be long term, as in establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon in order to move on to Mars and deeper into the solar system, writes Mark Whittington in an op-ed. Teaming with the aerospace industry to show how space exploration makes the world a better place is essential as well, he writes.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of August 18-31, 2019
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (8/18): The White House National Space Council meets Tuesday near Washington’s Dulles Airport on a range of topics, including commercial space regulation and human space exploration. Astronauts spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday to install a second International Docking Adapter to accommodate NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partner spacecraft, Boeing’s CST-Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Both are nearing certification. Also late Wednesday, U.S. time, Russia will test launch a Soyuz 2.1a rocket on a Soyuz mission to the Space Station with some cargo, including a humanoid robot.

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