Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 11th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Launch pad fire delays Japanese cargo mission launch to the International Space Station (ISS). India’s efforts to re-establish communications with the Chandrayaan-2 moon lander continue, as the opportunity for surface operations fades.

Human Space Exploration

Space Station cargo mission grounded by launch pad fire (9/10): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) eighth cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was nearing launch Tuesday afternoon, U.S. time, when a fire broke out at the launch pad. The launch of the Kounotori cargo vessel, which was to reach the Space Station early Saturday with new external power storage batteries and hardware to update the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, has been delayed.

Space Science

Did India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon lander survive? The odds are long
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin
New York Times (9/10): The India Space Research Organization (ISRO) has not given up on re-contacting the Chandrayaan-2 Moon lander in spite of a loss of communication late Friday afternoon, U.S. time, as the spacecraft was attempting an autonomous, powered descent to the lunar surface. The Vikram lander was just 2.5 kilometers from its intended south pole landing target when communications stopped. The spacecraft has been imaged on the surface, intact but tilted at the lunar surface, according to news accounts.

Explained: How ISRO is trying to reconnect with Vikram Lander, within a deadline
Indian Express (9/11): India’s Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander and companion rover were to operate for 14 days after landing at the Moon’s south pole late last Friday afternoon, U.S. time. The 14 days correspond to the length of the lunar day. Once the south pole transitions from lunar day to lunar night, temperatures at the landing site will plummet, becoming too cold for the science instruments and other systems. The transition is a deadline in efforts to re-establish contact and attempt some science.

Europe’s Mars lander parachute problems may be worse than thought
Ars Technica (9/10): The European and Russian space agencies continue to struggle with the parachute landing system devised for ExoMars, the joint  lander and rover mission schedule for launch to the red planet next summer. The mission is to search for evidence of microbial activity on Mars and the parachutes are part of an elaborate braking system during the challenging atmospheric entry, descent and landing phase.

China’s FAST telescope, the world’s largest single radio dish telescope, is now fully operational
Universe Today (9/10): After years of construction, China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is functional, promising to offer double the observation as the U.S. Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which for decades has listened for possible transmissions from extraterrestrial intelligence, fast radio bursts from pulsars and scanned the makeup of Near Earth Objects.

Is interstellar travel really possible? Op-Ed (9/10): There’s no physical law that forbids interstellar travel. Still, it would not be easy, writes Paul Sutter, an Ohio State University astrophysicist.

Other News

After 50 years, space settlement experts update their vision for off-planet outposts (10/9): Fifty years ago, Princeton University physicist Gerald K. O’Neill offered a vision for perhaps millions of people living and working in space, as in space rather than on planetary surfaces. The concept is being re-visited by the California-based Space Studies Institute, host to a conference this week at the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Launch companies look to government customers for stability
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (9/10): In Paris, at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference, major U.S. space launch companies, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman were among those that assessed the financial significance of future U.S. national security mission launches to their business plans. The executive assessments varied in the face of changing commercial markets.

SpaceX plans 24 Starlink launches next year (9/10): Speaking before the Euroconsult World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the company looks to launch as many as 24 Starlink missions in 2020, or a launch cadence of one mission about every two weeks, as it seeks to expand a mega broadband satellite network that will eventually include about 12,000 small satellites.

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