In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The initial Space Launch System (SLS) core stage for the first joint launch with an Orion capsule on an uncrewed test flight around the Moon left the factory on Wednesday. NASA may seek more investment from commercial partners selected to develop lunar landers for the Artemis initiative in response to a pre-Christmas appropriation for 2020 that was less then requested by NASA.
Human Space Exploration
First SLS core stage departs factory
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing
Spaceflightnow.com (1/8): At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the first core stage completed for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was loaded on a barge Wednesday for its next step toward launch. NASA’s Pegasus barge will transport the 212 foot long stage assembled by Boeing to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in neighboring Mississippi. There, it will undergo a “green run” to include a full duration ground test firing of the four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines later this year ahead of its transfer to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for launch on a date currently under review. The initial SLS will power an uncrewed Orion capsule on a multi-week test flight around the Moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery.
NASA may ask lunar lander aspirants to put more skin in the game
Ars Technica (1/7): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has signaled the U.S. aerospace industry it may have to invest more than initially envisioned in efforts to develop the lunar landers needed to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon from 2028 to 2024. As 2019 came to a close, the Congress and White House agreed to appropriate $600 million for the initial phase of the Human Lander System for the 2020 fiscal year, which ends on September 30. That was much less than requested by the White House in a May supplemental request. NASA plans to down-select from initial commercial proposals early this year.
NASA postpones procurement of lander for VIPER lunar rover
SpaceNews.com (1/8): In at least partial response to potential commercial launch services providers, NASA is delaying plans for VIPER, a mission to deliver a rover to the south pole region of the Moon to characterize the anticipated presence of lunar ice in permanently shaded regions of impact craters. Previously, the selection of a launch services provider by NASA was expected in late January or early February of this year. The agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will turn to less complex robotic missions in order to move ahead in support of Artemis, which is to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024.
Beam rider: New ‘self-centering’ laser sail could enable interstellar travel
Space.com (1/8): Good news, possibly, for scientists anticipating a means of traveling to new destinations beyond the solar system to explore with robotic spacecraft. The solution may be light sails, moving out propelled by sunlight or perhaps near Earth lasers with their beams focused on the light sails.
800,000 years ago, a meteor slammed into Earth. Scientists just found the crater
Space.com (1/8): Scientists have identified the impact site of a significant meteorite that struck the Earth 790,000 years ago that widely distributed shiny black lumps of debris. New findings point to southern Laos on the Bolaven Peninsula as the impact site. Findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Federal funding to support Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island
WVEC-TV of Hampton Roads Virginia (1/8): Virginia’s Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island has secured $96,425 in federal funding to upgrade port facilities for the loading and off-loading of barges and research vessels at the launch site.
China’s first launch of 2020 lofts mystery payload
Spaceflightnow.com (1/7): It’s mission unclear, a Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit in darkness on Tuesday with a large satellite, possibly for military purposes.
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