Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 19th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Some in Congressional oversight roles believe NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will open access to deep space with less risk. Russia promises timely decision on a NASA request to acquire more Soyuz seats for the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Scientists observe evidence of water vapor above the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. NASA picks five more companies, including Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada, to launch payloads to the lunar surface.


Human Space Exploration

Seeking a bigger role for a big rocket
The Space Review (11/18): Despite criticism of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) over cost and schedule delays, some in Congress and outside are emphasizing the need for the large rocket to carry out human deep space exploration, with initial missions to the Moon and Mars. The more powerful Block 1B version of the SLS, with a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage may help to limit the numbers of launches for the assembly of a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway while accelerating schedules for science as well as human missions is of particular interest, according to supporters. Using larger numbers of launches with commercial partners may also increase risk, according to experts who’ve testified recently before Congress.

Roscosmos vows to make decision on Soyuz seats for U.S. astronauts soon
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing

TASS of Russia (11/19): Recently, NASA has sought the potential purchase of one or two seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft launching cosmonauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020-21 as a means of ensuring a continued U.S. presence on the orbiting science lab should the agency’s Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing and SpaceX, encounter further delays in certifying the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon for regularly schedule crew launches. The last NASA purchased Soyuz seat launches in April with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two cosmonauts. The trio is prepared to staff the ISS with no additional crew thru October, meaning a major reduction in the ability to conduct science experiments and tech demonstrations.

From the beginning: A look at NASA’s beginning to the future of space flight
WKYC (11/15): NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Plum Brook Station in Ohio play critical roles in the preparation of the Orion crew capsule that is return human explorers to deep space, first with an accelerated 2024 return to the surface of the Moon.


Boeing fires back at NASA Inspector General regarding commercial crew report

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (11/18): Boeing said November 18 that a report issued last week by NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the commercial crew program, including claims that the company considered withdrawing from the program, was inaccurate.

NanoRacks aims to test habitat-building method during SpaceX satellite mission
Coalition Member in the News – NanoRacks (11/18): Houston based NanoRacks has selected a SpaceX Falcon 9 ride share opportunity to demonstrate a technology for converting spent rocket upper stages into space habitats as part of NASA’s NextSTEP-2 space habitat initiative. The demo will utilize a Maxar Technologies robot. A late 2020 launch is anticipated.

Space Science

Zurbuchen hints at more JWST delays
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (11/18): Speaking before the NASA Advisory Council in Monday, Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, cautioned that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) could face delays beyond its current launch date target of March 2021. The designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope,  the JWST is undergoing a complex pre-launch integration and check out at Northrop Grumman facilities in Redondo Beach, California. Past delays and technical challenges have raised the observatory’s life cycle cost estimate to more than $9.6 billion. The JWST is to study the earliest stars and assess the atmospheres of extra solar planets for evidence of possible bio markers.

NASA scientists confirm water vapor on Europa
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (11/18): Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter, continues to offer evidence of possible habitable environments. An international effort led by scientists from NASA Goddard have detected the presence of water vapor above Europa’s surface for the first time. The observations were made in 2016 and 2017 using the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy. NASA is preparing a mission, Europa Clipper, to make a series of close flybys of Europa in an effort to better characterize the ice shell and a liquid water ocean perhaps twice that of the Earth’s.

The first batch of data from NASA’s sun-visiting probe is now available to the public
Gizmoto (11/15): Launched in August 2018, NASA Solar Parker Probe is providing scientists with the closest ever observations of the sun. Now, NASA is releasing the spacecraft’s data to the public for viewing and analysis gathered during close passes in October/November 2018 and March/April 2019.

A meteor outburst could happen this week (11/19): The Earth will pass through a region of dusty comet debris this week, perhaps triggering a meteor outburst late Thursday and early Friday. “No one knows exactly where alpha Monocerotid meteors come from. The parent comet has never been seen,” according to the forecast. “Based on the dynamics of its debris, it probably circles the sun every 500 years or so. We know the comet exists only because of the narrow trail of dust it left behind long ago. Earth has run into the dust trail at least 4 times, causing bright outbursts of meteors in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995.”

Other News

NASA picks SpaceX, Blue Origin and more to join private Moon lander project

Coalition Member in the News – Astrobiotic (11/18): NASA on Monday announced the addition of Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corp, SpaceX and Tyvak Nano Satellite Systems to a roster of 9 companies selected previously by the agency as qualified to compete for launch services agreements to deliver robotic payloads to the lunar surface. The initiative is part of agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. The expansion is intended to drive innovation and lower costs through competition, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The five newcomers join launch services providers selected in November 2018. All are part of an effort to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024 to establish a sustained human presence and prepare for the human exploration of Mars.

GAO sides with Blue Origin in protest of Air Force launch contract rules

Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (11/18): In a statement, the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) on Monday sided with Blue Origin in an August 12 protest filed by the company over the fairness and openness of rules set by the U.S. Air Force in the procurement of launch services. The decision itself remained under seal. The protest was in response to a National Security Space Launch Phase 2 procurement. Two contracts are up for reward. Blue Origin also challenged other provisions in which the GAO sided with the Air Force.

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