Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 14th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s focused on establishing target launch dates for test flights of Moon mission as well as new commercial low Earth orbit human spacecraft. China prepares for a global 2020 march to Mars.

Human Space Exploration

NASA official hints first SLS launch could slip to mid-2021 (10/11): NASA is awaiting the appointment of a new associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate before it establishes a new target date for the first joint launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) and an uncrewed Orion capsule. The position opened when associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier and his deputy Bill Hill were reassigned earlier this year. Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, last week, Ken Bowersox, the former astronaut who is leading the directorate on an interim basis, suggested the launch date for the Artemis 1 test flight could slip from 2020 to mid-2021. While progress in the SLS development is being made, critical milestones loom.

NASA confirms Boeing’s latest timetable for Starliner space taxi’s final tests
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance
Geek Wire (10/11): Boeing has set November 4 and December 17 for two key tests of its CST-100 Starliner capsule under development under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, NASA confirmed on Friday. The first of the uncrewed tests intended to restore a U.S. capability to transport astronauts to and from low Earth orbit will assess the capsule’s ability to safely abort from the launch pad at White Sands, New Mexico. The December test will launch a capsule without crew to the International Space Station (ISS) atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for a docking and return to Earth after a week. A crewed test flight by Boeing could follow in early 2020. The U.S. lost a domestic human launch capability when NASA’s shuttle program was retired in July 2011.

Morgan, Koch continue battery replacement work on spacewalk (10/13): NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Christina Koch continued efforts to upgrade power storage batteries outside the International Space Station (ISS) with a near seven hour spacewalk on Friday. Theirs was the second of five planned spacewalks this month to exchange six new lithium ion batteries for a dozen aging nickel hydrogen units.

Legendary cosmonaut Alexei Leonov dies at 85 (10/11): Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history on March 18, 1965, when he conducted the first spacewalk, a brief and difficult demonstration outside the Earth orbiting Voskhod-2 capsule. He would go on to command the Soviet half of the Apollo/Soyuz mission in July 1975, which brought NASA astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts together in space for the first time. Leonov died Friday after a lengthy illness. He was 85.

Space Science

China Mars mission: New details
Leonard David’s Inside Outer Space (10/12): China in 2020 plans the launch of a Mars mission, one with an orbiter, lander and rover. The mission is to seek evidence of current and past life.  NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) partnered with the Russian Space Agency and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also plan Mars mission launches during a favorable alignment between the Earth and Mars next year with landings in early 2021. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to collect and cache samples of soil and rock at a crater lake and delta on Mars for future return to Earth.

Juno’s near-death experience
Cosmos Magazine (10/14): NASA’s long running Juno mission to Jupiter maneuvered into orbit around the solar system’s largest planet on July 4, 2016, one that took it close to the cloud tops every 53 days. The orbit track was to be adjusted to complete a close flyby every 14 days and complete the Juno mission’s goal of 37 close flybys more than a year ago. However, a main engine propulsion system issue on the spacecraft prevented anything faster than one close pass every 53 days. Recently, the mission overcame another issue, one that would have kept the solar powered Juno in prolonged darkness before its upcoming November 3 flyby, a potentially mission ending event. Two weeks ago, mission managers used the low powered thrusters on Juno to avoid the long stretch of darkness.

Other News

Aerojet Rocketdyne teams with NASA to develop novel rocket engine technology
Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne
Aerojet Rocketdyne (10/8): Through a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Aerojet Rocketdyne will lead efforts to develop a lightweight rocket engine thrust chamber using additive, or 3-D, manufacturing to lower the cost of propulsion systems for missions to the Moon and Mars and other destinations.

Stratolaunch air-launch venture says it’s been transferred to new owners by Paul Allen’s Vulcan
Space News (10/11): Stratolaunch, the air launch company founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has new ownership, the company announced Friday. The company was founded in 2011, and Allen passed away October 15, 2018. A brief statement did not include information identifying the new leadership.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of October 13-19, 2019 (10/13): The U.S. House and Senate are back in session on Tuesday, following a two week recess. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science will host a hearing on Artemis, NASA’s initiative to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon from 2028 to 2024. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Ken Bowersox, the acting NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, are to discuss the effort. Earlier, the House took no action on a $1.6 billion supplementary budget request from the White House for 2020 to help initiate the Artemis. NASA on Tuesday at 2 p.m., will host a presentation of its future space suit development plans for Artemis for Washington area students and news media. It will be broadcast on NASA TV. On Wednesday NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Jessica Meir conduct the third of five spacewalks this month to upgrade power storage batteries on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS).

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