Today’s Deep Space Extra

December 5th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s new Associate Administrator for human exploration, Doug Loverro, strongly endorsed the Space Launch System (SLS) mission during an employee Town Hall this week. Research from NASA’s Solar Parker Probe removes some of the mystery from the high temperature of the sun’s corona, the high velocity of the solar wind and a far reaching magnetic field. 

Human Space Exploration

New NASA human spaceflight leader calls SLS “mandatory” for return to the Moon (12/4): Doug Loverro, NASA’s new Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Space Operations, backed development of the Space Launch System (SLS) in an employee Town Hall earlier this week hosted by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Loverro termed the SLS “absolutely necessary” if NASA is to transition its human space exploration objectives from low Earth orbit to deep space.

Aerojet Rocketdyne signs on the bottom line to build hardware for Moon missions
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin (12/4): Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin on Wednesday signed up to provide $170 million in hardware for NASA Orion crew capsules assigned to spacecraft destined for the Moon. The equipment is specifically intended for Artemis 3, NASA’s planned accelerated return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024 and missions to follow to establish a sustained human presence.

NASA faces spacewalk schedule crunch (12/5): Earlier this week, NASA counted the third in a planned series of four spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS) to overhaul the thermal control system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a $2 billion cosmic ray observatory. However, a crowded schedule of U.S. and Russian cargo missions, time critical science, a delay in spacewalks for the replacement of external solar power batteries have thrown into question when the fourth and final spacewalk to overhaul the observatory will take place. It may be January.

Live coverage: SpaceX scrubs Falcon 9 launch attempt, will try again Thursday (12/4): Out of limit high altitude winds on Wednesday prompted a 24 hour delay in the planned launch of SpaceX’s 19th NASA contracted cargo mission to the six person International Space Station (ISS). Reset for Thursday at 12:29 p.m., EST, the Falcon 9 rocket/Dragon capsule would place a 5,700 pound cargo on a course to reach the orbiting science lab on Sunday.

Space Science

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is unlocking the sun’s mysteries
New York Times (12/4): No space mission has attempted to observe and study the sun as closely as NASA’s Solar Parker Probe. Barely a year into a seven year mission, Parker is informing the forces at work in accelerating the solar wind and heating the sun’s corona, or upper atmosphere. The long running mission was launched in August 2018.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx in the midst of site selection
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (12/4): NASA’s Osiris-Rex asteroid sample return mission to Bennu is days away from selecting among four sites designated Sandpiper, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Nightingale to land briefly in the summer of 2020. The probe and its sample of the carbon rich asteroid are to depart for Earth in 2021, returning in September 2023 to release encapsulated material from Bennu onto the U.S. Army’s Utah Test and Training Range. Mission scientists face a challenge in selecting a site because of Bennu’s unexpectedly rocky surface. The materials promise to help explain how the planets formed and obtained their water ice and organics, the building blocks of life.

How brightly the Moon glows is a mystery, but maybe not for long
Science News (12/3): A high altitude observatory mission, NASA’s Airborne Lunar Spectral Irradiance Mission, is intended to gauge the Moon’s brightness without interference from the Earth’s atmosphere. The observations are intended to improve the data gathered by Earth observation satellites for weather forecasting, crop monitoring and extent of algal bloom.

Other News

Space race is on: U.S. can’t afford congressional inaction in this critical economic sector
The Hill (12/4): Congress must take action on issues critical to the future of a space economy and national security, according to an op-ed from Greg Autry, director of the Commercial Spaceflight Initiative at the University of Southern California and George Nield, former FAA administrator for commercial space transportation. Specifically they point to the Office of Space Commerce and its emerging role in space traffic management and establishment of a Space Force  as a sixth branch of the military to guard against threats to space national security assets from potential adversaries.

China to continue world-leading launch rate in 2020 (12/3): China expects to stretch its global lead in the launch of space missions in 2020, with an estimated 30 missions, including some destined for the Moon and Mars, while other launches will  carry out flight tests and an expand China’s satellite navigation network. The country has attempted a leading 29 launches so far in 2019.

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