Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 3rd, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… U.S. leadership in space promises dividends from a growing space economy.  NASA’s international partners pledge support for an early lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway. Florida’s space coast braces for a brush with Dorian.

Human Space Exploration

ISS partners endorse modified Gateway plans (8/30): NASA’s four partner agencies in the International Space Station (ISS) have signed a statement in support of an initial lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway capable of supporting an accelerated return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. The original date for Gateway completion was 2028 with international contributions. The earlier date called for by the White House in March will require a Gateway with power and propulsion and minimum habitation components, which could mean a delay in the overall assembly of partner elements.

America must lead in settling the new frontier 
The Hill (8/28): Continued U.S. leadership in space depends on adequately funding NASA and other strategic investments, historically a bipartisan priority, writes Christian Zur, U.S. Chamber of Commerce space policy specialist. Budget pressures are mounting. “But without Congress and the administration allocating robust resources, the budget pressures of today will sacrifice the nation’s future share of the coming trillion-dollar space economy,” he notes.

Kennedy Space Center moves giant tower indoors ahead of Dorian
The Weather Channel (8/30): As Hurricane Dorian prepared to cross the Bahamas on a course towards the U.S. Atlantic coast, NASA used one of its giant crawler transporters to move the only Mobile Launch tower it has currently to support Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion activities at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida from Launch Complex 39B to the protection of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The nearly 400 foot tall Mobile Launcher has been undergoing check out activities at 39B since June and is to return after the hurricane threat passes.

Space Science

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been assembled for the first time
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (8/28): NASA and its Northrop Grumman contractor team are preparing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the designated successor to the 29 year old Hubble Space Telescope, for launch in March 2021. The science and spacecraft elements of the joint project with the European and Canadian space agencies were recently joined to undergo the mating of electrical connectors and a test deployment of the large sun shield.

Big Chandrayaan-2 move: Lander separates from orbiter
Deccan Herald of India (9/2): India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission accomplished a milestone on Monday as the Vikram lander separated successfully from the spacecraft’s orbiter, which circles the Moon. Vikram carries a rover, Pragyan, which will be part of the landing planned for Friday, U.S. time, Saturday in India

NASA invites students to name next Mars rover
NASA (8/28): NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, due to launch in July 2020 and land at Jezero Crater on Mars to seek evidence of a past habitable environment and collect samples of rock and soil for eventual return to Earth, is due a more inspirational name. Beginning Tuesday, NASA is asking U.S. students in grades K-12 to write brief essays with suggestions. The deadline for entries is November 1. The public will vote on finalists in January. A name will be announced on February 18, 2020, a year to the day before the rover is to touchdown on Mars.

InSight mission seeking new ways to fix heat flow probe (8/30): NASA’s InSight Mars lander touched down on the Red Planet in late November to carry out unprecedented studies of the Martian subsurface. However, one of the instruments, the German led Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, became stuck as it began to burrow into the ground. The instrument was removed for troubleshooting. Meanwhile, the Earth and Mars are currently on opposite sides of the sun, which has prompted a suspension in communication until September 7. 

China’s lunar rover has found something weird on the far side of the Moon (8/30): China’s Chang’e 4 mission became the first to successfully soft land on the Moon’s far side on January 3. As July came to a close, operators of the mission’s Yutu rover spotted a strange “gel like” substance in a lunar far side south pole crater.

Other News

U.S. Space Command reestablished after 17-year hiatus (8/29): President Trump led an August 29 White House ceremony re-establishing a military command focused on space national security. Gen. John (Jay) Raymond serves as the commander of USSPACECOM as well as Commander of Air Force Space Command. Congress is still addressing legislation to establish a Space Force as a new branch of the military. The original space command was established in 1985 but fell victim to a post 9/11 restructuring in 2002.

SpaceX refused to move a Starlink satellite at risk of collision with a European satellite
Forbes (9/2): Aeolus, a European Space Agency (ESA) Earth observation satellite, was forced to adjust its orbit on Monday to avoid a possible collision with one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet connection constellation satellites. Aeolus resumed its operational altitude after the maneuver. SpaceX refused to take an evasive maneuver, according to ESA.

Russia’s Deputy Premier rips new space center

Bloomberg (9/2): A series of corruption scandals, cost overruns and mishaps at Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome have brought long-simmering questions about the leadership of the country’s space agency into public view. “The situation is unacceptable for everyone, including the construction of the first stage and the second stage” of the space center, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov told Vedomosti newspaper in an interview published Monday, adding that the Defense Ministry may take over part of the work.

What Congress is (and isn’t) doing on 5G (8/28): There is near-universal agreement on Capitol Hill about the importance of American leadership in the field of 5G technology as well as the importance of protecting the networks of the United States  and its allies’ networks from prying eyes and cyberattacks. There is also consensus that the United States is playing catch-up compared to competitors like China and that more needs to be done. Both the House and the Senate have held hearings addressing 5G this year, and members have used national security-related hearings to raise questions and gather information about 5G.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of September 1-7, 2019 (9/1): The U.S. Congress remains in recess until September 9, when it convenes to finish work on a federal budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1. NASA’s Advisory Council and the agency’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meet this week as do some other space policy gatherings and workshops. India’s attempt to soft land at the Moon’s south pole with the unmanned Chandrayaan-2 mission’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover are set for Friday, U.S. time, Saturday in India.

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