Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 25th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Spacewalk upgrades to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS) continue to go well. NASA considers commercial lunar rovers for its Artemis astronauts. The first NASA Orion capsule assigned to a lunar mission, Artemis 1, arrives at Plum Brook Station, Ohio for thermal vacuum testing.  

Human Space Exploration

Spacewalkers press ahead with Space Station cosmic ray detector repair
CBS News (11/22): International Space Station (ISS) crew members Luca Parmitano, of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Drew Morgan, of NASA on Friday successfully completed the second of four planned spacewalks to overhaul the thermal control system of the more than $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) parked on the Station’s solar power truss. The spacewalkers cut aging liquid carbon dioxide cooling lines, disabling the original circulation pumps. They installed a mounting platform for a new pump package, which is to be installed on the next spacewalk in the series on December 2.

Boeing astronauts, workers and families get ready as Starliner spacecraft rolls out to launchpad
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance
Florida Today (11/21): Sometime next year, if near term testing goes well, Boeing’s Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut, will be joined by NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann on a test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS). Last week, the trio gathered to watch as Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) mated a Starliner to an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for an uncrewed test flight to the Space Station. Launch is set for December 17. If uncrewed and crewed test flights go well, Boeing can be certified by NASA to begin the regularly scheduled transportation of astronauts to and from the orbiting science lab.

NASA eyes a new Moon rover for astronauts and robot lunar explorers (11/22): NASA is considering the development of an unpressurized lunar rover for use by Artemis era astronauts who are to make an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Tom Cremins, NASA’s associate administrator for strategy and plans, outlined the plan as part of the public-private partnership strategy the agency is embracing for deep space exploration. NASA will seek involvement from companies with expertise in making golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, automobiles or even autonomous mining parts, Cremins explained during a November 20 session of SpaceCom, the space exploration business forum held annually in Houston.

NASA’s Orion capsule arrives in Mansfield aboard ‘Super Guppy’
WBNS-TV of Columbus Ohio (11/24): The NASA Orion capsule and its European Space Agency (ESA) service module were flown from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to Ohio, arriving Sunday afternoon. There, it will undergo critical thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. The tests are in preparation for Artemis 1, the first joint test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion. The uncrewed, multi-week test flight will take the capsule around and close to the surface of the Moon, then back to Earth for a Pacific splashdown and recovery. At Plum Brook, The capsule will be subjected to thermal extremes of space and its electronic systems tested for compatibility. A crewed test light is to follow, setting the stage for Artemis 3, which is to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024.  

Space Science

Antarctic Tests will prepare this rover for a possible trip to an icy ocean moon
Tech Crunch (11/20): BRUIE, Buoyant Rover for Under-Sea Exploration, is a rover under development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for possible future missions to the ice and ocean covered moons of the outer solar system. Cruising around the ice upside down and under water, BRUIE is sufficiently buoyant to gain traction. Under development since 2012, BRUIE has been field tested in Alaska and the Arctic. Now it’s time for an Antarctic trial before missions to destinations that may host habitable environments.

New map shows the strange terrain of Titan
Ars Technica (11/21): Saturn’s moon Titan is peppered with lakes, dunes, plains and more. But the lakes are filled with hydrocarbon fluids rather than water, as a newly fashioned map from the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) led Cassini mission reveals. Launched in 1997, the probe reached the Saturn system in 2004, exploring from orbit until September 2017. Earlier this year, NASA announced it plans to return to Titan with a mission called Dragonfly that will feature a drone capable of flying through the moon’s thick atmosphere to a range of sites to explore. A 2026 launch is planned.

Starline satellites photobomb a meteor shower (11/23): Professional and amateur astronomers alike gazed up November 22 in hopes of viewing an outburst of the alpha Monocerotid meteors. Some cameras caught a rival event, however, as dozens of small SpaceX Starlink satellites launched as part of a growing global internet satellite constellation flew through the field of view.

Other News

ESA ministerial preview: Building the pillars for Europe’s future in space (11/22): Coming up on November 27,  European Space Agency (ESA) ministers will meet in Seville, Spain, to plan a three year funding future for the agency. In an interview Jan Woerner,  ESA’s director general described four key investment themes, science and exploration including human exploration; applications, which includes Earth science, navigation and telecommunications; enabling and support, which includes launch vehicles and facilities; and space safety, which includes space weather, addressing orbital debris and planetary defenses. In all, ESA is seeking $13.8 billion from member states over three years.

Vandenberg Air Force Base mapping out plan to become ‘spaceport of the future’
Noozhawk of Santa Barbara (11/23): Locals advance a plan to transform Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, into a futuristic spaceport that includes commercial partners. The $100 million plans relies on multiple funding sources for new utilities and roadways and launch site accommodations for small and large commercial rockets launches.

China launches two more Beidou navigation satellites (11/23): China launched two more satellites as part of its BeiDou satellite navigation network. The represent the network’s 50th and 51st satellites. However, debris from the Long March 3 rocket launch appears to have damaged a downrange village.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of November 24 to December 7, 2019 (11/24): Perhaps, one of the most significant activities underway this week is the meeting Wednesday through Thursday of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ministerial council in Seville, Spain. They will assess a three year funding commitment to programs including those in partnership with NASA. In the U.S., with Thanksgiving approaching on Thursday, the House and Senate are in recess except for pro forma obligations. Russia is preparing a December 1 Progress resupply mission launch to the International Space Station (ISS). Meanwhile, NASA plans the third in a series of four spacewalks to overhaul the thermal control system of the Space Station’s multinational Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a more than $2 billion cosmic ray observatory, on December 2. The first two excursions by Space Station astronauts Luca Parmitano and Drew Morgan have gone as planned or exceeded expectations.

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