Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 9th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA conveys an urgency in completing the test phases of its Commercial Crew Program, a multi-year effort to develop Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for the transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Human Space Exploration

It looks like SpaceX is now prioritizing Crew Dragon which is great for NASA
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Ars Technica (10/8): SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk is stepping up efforts to carry out a critical in flight abort test of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon in response to concerns within NASA that delays in its Commercial Crew Program could leave the agency without a means of transporting U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Musk indicated that hardware for an in-flight abort test in late November or early December is en-route to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch site. Currently, NASA’s last seat on a Russian Soyuz, which has provided Space Station transportation since the space shuttle fleet’s 2011 retirement, is in March. SpaceX is also working a spacecraft parachute issue.

Musk says Crew Dragon tests will be done in about 10 weeks
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (10/9): In recent weeks, NASA has expressed an urgency in bringing the development phase of its Commercial Crew Program to a conclusion with certifications for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Russia’s Soyuz has provided the only launch service since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Using social media, SpaceX’s Elon Musk indicated Tuesday a required test launch of Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard to the Space Station could unfold late this year, or early in 2020, and also that an in-flight abort launch without astronauts on board could happen in late November or early December. Possibly, he suggested, all test activities could be complete in about 10 weeks. The uncrewed Crew Dragon flight test to the Space Station was carried out successfully in March, weeks before a launch site fire damaged SpaceX abort test capsule. Boeing, meanwhile, has still to launch uncrewed and crewed test flights of the Starliner to the Space Station as well as the in-flight abort test. Boeing’s Chris Ferguson, a retired NASA astronaut, indicated Tuesday the abort test could occur next month and the uncrewed and crewed Starliner flights in the “near future.” NASA has one Soyuz seat remaining on a mission launching to the Space Station in March.

NASA looks to support development of commercial space stations (10/8): NASA has issued a draft call for proposals for commercial destination development in low Earth orbit. A final version call for proposals that is responsive to commercial feedback from the draft could be released November 18. At the direction of the White House, NASA is seeking to transition its human exploration focus from low Earth orbit activities to deep space, starting with an accelerated human return to the lunar surface in 2024. Earlier this week, at a Washington meeting of the National Academy of Engineering, former NASA administrator Charles Bolden called for a more concerted effort by the commercial sector to invest in use of the ISS and free flying platforms.

Astronauts bioprint beef in space for the first time
Endgadget (10/8):  An effort led by Aleph Farms succeeded in bioprinting a beef steak aboard the Russian segment of the International space Station (ISS) in late September. A bioprinter from 3-D Bioprinting Solutions succeeded in demonstrating it can create the meat faster in the absence of gravity. The breakthrough could offer astronauts a valuable source of protein, while on Earth it may offer a way to cultivate beef with less power and impact on the environment.

Space Science

Nobel Prize in physics awarded for studies of Earth’s place in the universe
New York Times (10/8): The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday announced award of the Nobel Prize for physics to Canadian-American James Peebles of Princeton University and to Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. Peebles’ work helped parse the composition of the universe into 5 percent normal matter and energy and 95 percent invisible dark energy and dark matter. Mayor and Queloz discovered the first extra solar planet orbiting a sun-like star in October 1995.

Other News

Pegasus rocket looks to launch NASA weather satellite from aircraft into space
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
Orlando Sentinel (10/8): After a lengthy delay to overcome technical issues with the rocket launcher, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite, or ICON, is ready to launch Wednesday night from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. During a two year primary mission, the spacecraft will study interactions between solar and Earth weather from an equatorial orbit and altitude of 360 miles. The ionosphere is home to the International Space Station (ISS). Radio waves bounce off the ionosphere, and GPS signals pass back and forth between users on the Earth and spacecraft in a higher orbits. Launch on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carried aloft by an L-1011 called Stargazer is planned for 9:30 p.m.

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