Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 4th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will undergo a televised launch pad abort test early Monday. Hours after a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply mission launched Saturday it reached the six person International Space Station (ISS). 

Human Space Exploration

Sizing up the contenders for NASA’s lunar-lander program
Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (11/1): U.S. competitors have until November 5 to submit bids to NASA for the commercial lunar landers the agency is looking to in order to accelerate a return to the surface of the Moon with astronauts in 2024. Blue Origin, Boeing, SpaceX and others are leading or collaborating. Congress has been slow to embrace NASA’s budget request to achieve the goal, and without action soon a 2024 lunar return could slip away.

NASA TV aired Boeing Starliner pad abort test
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
NASA (11/1): On Monday at 8:50 a.m., EST, NASA televised activities surrounding a pad abort test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which is under development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to provide transportation for astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The U.S. has relied on Russia’s Soyuz for the launches and re-entries since NASA’s space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Monday’s took place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. During the test the uncrewed Starliner performed nominally and demonstrated how it would function with astronauts on board during a launch countdown emergency. The test firing occurred at 9:15 a.m., EST, and was live streamed at

Space Station receives spacewalking gear, new baking oven
Coalition Member in the News – Craig Technologies, NanoRacks, Northrop Grumman (11/4): A NASA contracted Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply mission spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday with an 8,200 pound cargo. The spacecraft, launched Saturday from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia, carried tools for a series of spacewalks to overhaul the thermal control system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a cosmic ray observatory on the Station, and a wide range of materials for science experiments and technology demonstrations, some to help pave the way for future human deep space exploration. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir used the Station’s robot arm to grapple the capsule named for Apollo astronaut Alan Bean.

Israeli radiation protection vest blasts off to International Space Station
Coalition Members in the News – Lockheed Martin, NanoRacks, Northrop Grumman
Jerusalem Post (11/3): Solar radiation exposure is among the health concerns faced by future human deep space explorers. Northrop Grumman’s latest NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) includes AstroRad, a vest like garment designed to shield bodily organs especially susceptible to exposures during solar bursts. Station astronauts will assess AstroRad for its comfort and ergonomics. A joint effort by Lockheed Martin and Israel’s StemRad, the garment will also fly on NASA’s first Artemis mission, an uncrewed joint test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule around the moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery.

Repair equipment for particle physics experiment aboard next Station cargo launch
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (11/1): Special tools aboard the NASA contracted Northrop Grumman resupply mission to the six person International Space Station (ISS) were developed by NASA and partners to repair the thermal control system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). Launched in May 2011, the AMS is an international collaboration led by NASA and the Department of Energy to study dark matter and anti-matter. The $2 billion observatory was originally designed to last three years. Space Station astronauts Drew Morgan and Luca Parmitano have trained to attempt spacewalk repairs that are to get underway in November so the observations can continue.

SpaceX trumpets progress on commercial crew parachute testing (11/3): SpaceX reports a series of successful parachute tests for the Crew Dragon, the space capsule it is developing under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Early test failures of the Mark 3 version of the parachute developed with Airborne Systems was a concern expressed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine when he met with SpaceX founder Elon Musk at company headquarters in California on October 10. Like Boeing, SpaceX is working toward NASA certification of the Crew Dragon.

Space Science

Biological pigment that acts as nature’s sunscreen set for space journey
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
Johns Hopkins University (11/1): A significant science cargo reached the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday with the rendezvous of a NASA contracted Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule at the six person ISS. The science cargo includes a Johns Hopkins University study that will assess how a composite material comprised of fungal melanin and polymers might act as a radiation shield for astronauts. The first ever study will take several months.

InSight’s mole may not deliver on heat flow, but reveal mysteries of Martian soil instead (11/2): NASA’s Mars InSight lander marks a year on the surface of the Red Planet in November as the cornerstone of a two year mission to learn about the Martian crust, mantle and core. One of three primary instruments, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, has failed to hammer about 16 feet below the surface to measure subsurface thermal properties. After hammering to a depth of only 14 inches, the Package, also known as the “mole” resurfaced. Experts believe the difficulties are due to unanticipated soil properties, which are now a focus of growing scientific interest.

How Japan’s Hayabusa2 stuck its landings on the boulder-strewn asteroid Ryugu (11/20): Japan’s Hayabusa 2 sample return mission to the asteroid Ryugu has been a valuable deep space spacecraft operational experience for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which is preparing a sample return mission to the moons of Mars in the coming decade. Since arriving at Ryugu in June 2018, Hayabusa 2 has twice touched down to collect samples and deployed hopper/rovers with cameras. The spacecraft is to depart for Earth by the end of this year and release its sample container for recovery from remote Australia in late 2020.

China’s lunar rover travels over 300 meters on Moon’s far side
Xinhuanet (11/4): China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover has logged nearly 320 meters in its exploration of the Moon’s far side so far this year. China’s Chang’e-4 lander and rover touched down at the South Pole-Aitkin Basin on the Moon on January 3. The rover explores during two weeks of sunlight, then goes dormant for two weeks of darkness.

Other News

Air Force cubesats fly to International Space Station aboard Northrop Grumman resupply mission
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (11/2): Rogue Alpha and Beta are a pair of U.S. Air Force small satellites delivered to the six person International Space Station (ISS) early Monday aboard Northrop Grumman’s 12th NASA contracted resupply mission. The two small satellites are among a large science payload. The Air Force used rapid prototyping to have the satellites, which are slated for deployment in early 2020, developed by researchers from the nonprofit Aerospace Corp.

China launches new Earth observation satellite
Xinhuanet (11/3): China on Sunday launched the Gaofen-7 Earth observation satellite, its first high resolution, civil-use optical transmission three-dimensional surveying and mapping satellite.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of November 3-9, 2019
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing, NanoRacks (11/3): First up on Monday at 9 a.m., is the Boeing Starliner CST-100 pad abort test at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. This is one in a series of milestones leading to NASA Commercial Crew Program certification to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The U.S. House is in recess this week. The Senate is in session. Both houses appear to face a challenge in avoiding a government shutdown after November 21 unless they can reach agreement on a second budget Continuing Resolution (CR). The 2020 fiscal year began October 1, without a budget for NASA, one that includes funds for an accelerated 2024 human return to the surface of the Moon. Spending across the government is held to 2019 levels without a budget, or exceptions. The National Academies’ Space Studies Board meets Wednesday and Thursday as well with planetary protection and deep space astronaut health among their topics.

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