Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 10th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA and its Commercial Crew Program partners are working to refine the final test milestones to achieve certification of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to begin schedule transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Human Space Exploration

Boeing, SpaceX press towards commercial crew test flights this year
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (10/9): Boeing has outlined plans to achieve two key milestones in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a near decade long initiative to develop a U.S. commercial capability to transport astronauts to and from the six person International Space Station (ISS). Those include a launch pad abort test without a crew aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner from White Sands, N.M., currently planned for November 4 and an uncrewed launch of the Starliner to the space station on December 17.  John Mulholland, a Boeing vice president and program manager, outlined the plans at the International Symposium for Commercial and Personal Spaceflight underway this week in Las Cruces, N.M.  SpaceX, NASA’s second Commercial Crew Program partner, plans an uncrewed in flight abort test in late November or early December. SpaceX in March carried out an uncrewed flight test of its Dragon capsule to the Space Station. Neither NASA nor SpaceX have outlined a date for a Crew Dragon test flight to the Space Station with astronauts. But using social media earlier this week, SpaceX’s Elon Musk suggested the test flight with astronauts might occur late this year or early 2020. The company has been challenged by a Crew Dragon fire during a ground abort thruster test in April and capsule parachute performance. Both companies are emphasizing the need to fly safely.

NASA slammed a rocket body into the Moon for science 10 years ago today (10/9): Wednesday marked an important milestone in the exploration of the Moon. On October 9, 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) combined to discover evidence for large amounts of water ice preserved in shadowed regions of craters at the Moon’s south pole, a resource for human life support and the raw material for the production of liquid hydrogen and oxygen rocket fuels. The findings are among the incentives for the decision earlier this year to accelerate a NASA led return to the Moon with human explorers to 2024. The plan calls for the crew to land at the lunar south pole.

Space Science

Weather delays NASA ICON mission; next attempt set
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
Florida Today (10/9): Bad weather on Florida’s space coast on Wednesday prompted NASA and Northrop Grumman to postpone for a day the air launch of a Pegasus XL rocket with the Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite, or ICON, on a two year mission to study interactions between the Earth’s ionosphere and the solar wind.  Conditions are forecast to improve for a launch attempt off Florida’s Atlantic coast Thursday about 9:30 p.m., EDT.

Power grids and satellites are more at risk from extreme solar storms than we thought
Universe Today (10/9): The pace of major disruptive solar storms capable of disrupting terrestrial power grids and satellite communications could occur more frequently than assumed, according to a new study published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Space Weather. The Carrington Event, the consequence of a massive solar coronal mass ejection in early September 1859, for instance, serves as an example of the potential severe nature of solar weather.

Other News

Northrop Grumman’s satellite servicer MEV-1, Eutelsat satellite, launch on ILS Proton
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (10/9): A Russian Proton rocket launched Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a satellite payload that included Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1, a pioneering satellite servicer. After a 3 1/2 month journey, the MEV-1 is to meet up with the Intelsat 901 communications satellite, which is running low on fuel, in geosynchronous orbit. MEV-1 will latch on in a bid to extend the life of the 18-year-old satellite another five years.  A second Proton payload was a Eutelsat communications satellite.

Satellite industry’s first robotic servicing mission ready for launch
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (10/8): More detail on Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) mission, which marks the first commercial satellite servicing mission. MEV-1 is to latch on to its Intelsat 901 communications satellite destination. The Intelsat satellite is 18-years-old and running low on fuel. MEV-1 is to join up with the aging satellite to take over steering, pointing and relocating requirements without attempting to refuel the Intelsat 901.

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