Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 11th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Administrator expresses confidence in SpaceX’s ability to meet Commercial Crew Program objectives following a factory tour and face to face meeting with founder Elon Musk on Thursday. NASA and Northrop Grumman launch a mission to study the Earth’s Ionosphere. NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Christina Koch embark on the second in a fast paced series of spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS) early Friday.

Human Space Flight

NASA Administrator visits SpaceX in bid to ease tension in their relationship
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Washington Post (10/11): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine emerged from a tour of SpaceX facilities in Hawthorne, California, with founder and CEO Elon Mush assured the company is committed to addressing a pair of issues that challenge efforts to resume domestic launches of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA turned to Russia for transportation after the shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. The issues include a ground based Crew Dragon thruster fire in April and parachutes for the end of mission return to Earth. A month ago, Bridenstine questioned whether SpaceX was focused on fulfilling its NASA Commercial Crew Program commitments. “We will make it,” said he said after meeting personally with Musk.  “This is a big deal for our country. We can’t get it wrong.”  Boeing, NASA’s second Commercial Crew Program partner, is also striving to complete testing and certification of the CST-100 Starliner for launches with astronauts to the Space Station in the first months of 2020.

As NASA tries to land on the Moon, it has plenty of rockets to choose from
Coalition Members in the News – Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (10/10): In its recent solicitation, NASA spells out what it’s looking for from the U.S. commercial sector for lunar landers in order to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Proposals are due NASA by November 1, and the space agency would like to proceed with at least two — if Congressional funding permits. As far as getting the lunar landers to the Moon, NASA has some choices. They include perhaps a commercial version of the agency’s own Space Launch System (SLS), the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan-Centaur, Blue Origin’s New Glenn and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy or Starship Super Heavy.

Legendary Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the First Person to Walk in Space, Dies at 85
Alexei Leonov, the first human to conduct a spacewalk, has died, according to a statement from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency released today (Oct. 11). Leonov died at the Burdenko Hospital in Moscow after a long illness, the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass reported. He will be buried at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery on Oct. 15, the agency added. Alexei Leonov conducted his historic spacewalk on March 18, 1965 as part of the Voskhod 2 (Sunrise) mission. He was lucky to survive the experience. Although the Soviet Union kept the details of the mission under wraps, Leonov’s spacesuit inflated during the walk, oxygen levels in the spacecraft itself skyrocketed, and a landing went awry deposited the crew in Siberia.

The exquisite boredom of spacewalking
The Atlantic (10/9): NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Christina Koch embarked early Friday on the second in a fast paced series of 10 U.S. spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS) planned through early December primarily to upgrade power storage batteries and overhaul the thermal control system of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an eight-year-old cosmic ray observatory. The drama and significance of the work may seem subtle. But without the careful maintenance of the Space Station, the many dozens of science experiments and technology demonstrations underway at any one time — a significant global investment in human spaceflight — could be lost.

Watch live: 2 astronauts taking spacewalk outside Space Station (10/11): NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Christina Koch plan a six to seven hour spacewalk today to continue a solar power storage battery upgrade outside the International Space Station (ISS).

Space Science

NASA satellite to study ionosphere launches after two-year delay (10/19): After a lengthy delay to address technical issue with its air launch vehicle, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer was launched on Thursday night off Florida’s Space Coast on a two year primary mission to study the interactions between the highest reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere and space. The environment is critical to radio communications and GPS navigation signals and the health of astronauts living and working in low Earth orbit.

Britain’s first Moon rover is a tiny four-legged robot that will launch into space by 2021
Coalition Members in the News – Astrobotic, United Launch Alliance
CNBC (10/9): The U.K. startup Spacebit intends to launch a lunar rover in 2021. It will ride on an Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  It’s envisioned such a rover might be capable of exploring lunar lava tubes.

Virgin Orbit is planning an ambitious mission to Mars In 2022 (10/9): Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has announced an agreement with Poland’s SatRevolution to send a commercial small satellite to Mars, perhaps the first, no earlier than 2022. The mission objectives are to image Mars and its moon Phobos, analyze the Martian atmosphere and look for subsurface water.

Earth’s magnetic poles can flip much more often than anyone though (10/10): French and Russian researchers have collaborated to find evidence the Earth’s north and south poles flipped about 26 times every one million years about a half billion years ago. Until recently, five flips every million years was considered a high rate.

Other News

Time is ripe for entrepreneurs to partner with U.S. national security space groups, says Fred Kennedy (10/10): The Pentagon’s new Space Development Agency should be open to the ideas for accomplishing their missions with innovations provided by the commercial space industry, agency former director Fred Kennedy told a Satellite Innovation 2019 conference in Mountain View, California, this week.

“50/50 Lunar Legends” a new documentary about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and hidden figures of US space program
Neil Armstrong believed their chances were only 50/50 that the moon landing would be a success. Hence the name of the documentary. The crew interviewed 50 people at the Florida Space Coast. Those who have contributed or who are actively contributing to space exploration. The movie focuses on the actual people who worked behind the scenes at NASA and its contractors to pioneer the science and technology of space exploration and how private companies, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and alike now continue to push us further into the future. 

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