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Today’s Deep Space Extra - Explore Deep Space

Today’s Deep Space Extra

December 17th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA is eager for congressional action on a 2020 spending plan that will permit it to proceed with the development of lunar landers for human missions in partnership with commercial companies. NASA and Boeing are preparing for a Friday launch of the CST-100 Starliner on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS), a milestone in an effort to resume the transportation of astronauts to and from the orbiting science lab from U.S. soil.

Human Space Exploration

NASA looks for ways to keep Artemis on track regardless of budget outcome
SpaceNews.com (12/13): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Doug Loverro, the recently appointed NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, believe the agency can keep the goal of the Artemis initiative, an accelerated return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024, on track even if Congress fails to  approve all of the funding sought for the Human Lunar Lander. The White House is seeking $21 billion for NASA in 2020, plus $1.6 billion to achieve the 2024 Artemis goal. During the formal appropriations process, the House did not approve the $1 billion sought for the lunar lander development with commercial partners. The Senate provided less than the $750 million sought for the lunar lander. Bridenstine said the agency will look for NASA initiatives already under way to press ahead if the funding does not surface in a budget agreement this week. 

Boeing, NASA getting ready for SLS Core Stage Green Run campaign ahead of Stennis arrival
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing
NASAspaceflight.com (12/14): By early January, NASA would like to see the first Boeing core stage for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket moving from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the Stennis Space Center in nearby Mississippi, for a month’s long Green Run assessment that includes a full duration, eight minute firing of the four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, possibly in mid-2020. In the fall of 2020, the core would be ready to move onto the Kennedy Space Center in preparation for Artemis 1, the first joint test flight of the SLS and an uncrewed Orion capsule on a multi-week mission around the Moon and return to Earth. It was a week ago, December 2, that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine led a SLS core “assembly complete” celebration at Michoud.

Politico Pro Q&A: Vice President Mike Pence on space policy
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance
Politico (12/13): In an exclusive interview, Vice President Mike Pence said he believes Congressional support for NASA’s Artemis initiative, an accelerated effort to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers by 2024, will grow as the agency’s Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing and SpaceX, begin transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. The U.S. has relied on Russia’s Soyuz for transportation since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. As vice president, Pence chairs the National Space Council.

Space Science

NRL-camera aboard NASA spacecraft confirms asteroid phenomenon
Physics.org (12/12): NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is studying the sun at closer distances than ever before, has detected a trail of asteroid dust thanks to an instrument provided by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), a wide field imaging camera. The trail estimated at more than 14 million miles long and containing dust estimated to weigh a billion tons. Observers are confident the material is part of the Geminid meteor stream.

Big volcanic bump unlike anything seen before found on the Moon
National Geographic (12/13): The Moon’s 620 mile wide Crisium basin is believed to have formed during an early era of solar system evolution during which debris was striking both the Earth and Moon. Scientists have spotted a crater within the basin from which a sample, extracted by astronauts or a robotic probe, might provide more answers about what was transpiring as life on Earth began to emerge.

ESA satellite set for launch to measure sizes of exoplanets
Spaceflightnow.com (12/16): The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth orbiting CHEOPS telescope mission to provide further characterization of the hundreds of exoplanets discovery by previous NASA and European missions like Kepler, TESS and  CoRoT is to launch from French Guiana on Tuesday at 3:54 a.m., EST. CHEOPs is designed to observe its extra-solar planet targets using the transit method and will orbit the Earth from an altitude of 435 miles.

Race against time to launch Europe’s troubled mission to Mars
The Guardian, of England (12/15): Like NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) is targeting July/August for the launch of a new Mars rover designed to assess Red Planet habitability and also to drill two meters below the surface to seek evidence of past or possibly current biological activity. However, the parachute system that is to help slow ESA’s ExoMars lander named for pioneering geneticist Rosalind Franklin to the Martian surface has experienced catastrophic pre-launch test failures. The agency has turned to NASA for help. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to launch also in July, when the Earth and Mars are most favorably aligned.

Other News

Space investing became real this year as Morgan Stanley hosts packed NYC investor summit
CNBC (12/14): The investment company Morgan Stanley’s recent space summit indicates that investor interest in commercial space is soaring among folks looking for new opportunities to invest in space technologies. Nearly $25 billion in private capital was invested in space companies over the past decade, and some investors are prepared to invest directly in the companies rather than thru traditional stock purchases.

Air Force seeking commercial technologies for cislunar space operations
SpaceNews.com (12/12): On. December 10, the U.S. Air Force issued a wide ranging Small Business Innovation Research pre-solicitation notice that included a surprise expressed interest in technology development for space situation awareness and navigation among activities between Earth geosynchronous orbit and the Moon. “As the space beyond geosynchronous orbit becomes more crowded and competitive, it is important for the Air Force to extend its space domain awareness responsibilities to include this new regime,” according to the notice. “The Air Force is seeking commercial innovation in support of space domain awareness for future cislunar operations.”

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

What’s Happening in Space Policy December 15-31, 2019
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance
Spacepolicyonline.com (12/15): Congress and the White House have until Friday to pass appropriations measures likely to be structured as multi-agency minibuses in order to avoid a possible government shutdown or partial shutdown. The 2020 fiscal year began October 1 and has operated since on two continuing budget resolution, the latest of which is set to expire on Friday. NASA is eager for a 2020 budget that funds the Human Lander System, part of a strategy for an accelerated return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. In other developments, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Friday at 6:36 a.m., EST, atop an Atlas 5 on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS). With an on time launch, Starliner is scheduled to dock on Saturday at 8:19 a.m., EST. Descent to Earth at the White Sands Missile Range in N.M., is planned for December 28 at 5:47 a.m., EST.

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