Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 6th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA continues to work around coronavirus restrictions in order to resume astronaut launches from the U.S. this year. An underwater NASA robot could search for evidence of life on ocean world planets. Implications of recent failed Chinese rocket launch on upcoming missions are unclear. 

Human Space Exploration

Radiation poses major obstacle to future deep-space astronauts bound for Mars
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (4/3): Once beyond the shielding of the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, human explorers must contend with the harmful effects of powerful solar and cosmic radiation. The threat grows with mission durations, an estimated two to three years for a journey to Mars and back. “We’re going to need some new materials that are a lot more efficient at shielding out this radiation but nothing that we could use today to safely send people to the Red Planet and back,” Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO, told a February 29 gathering at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

How NASA and SpaceX plan to launch astronauts in May despite a pandemic
CNBC (4/3): NASA and its Commercial Crew Program partner SpaceX are striving to overcome more than coronavirus restrictions in their bid to launch Demo 2, a crewed test flight of the Dragon 2 capsule to the ISS no earlier than mid to late May. The company, however, reports progress in overcoming a difficulties with deployment of the parachutes that are to be released prior to an end of mission splashdown, a 2019 SuperDraco rocket engine ground test explosion and a premature shutdown of the Falcon 9 rocket used to launch Starlink satellites on March 18. NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are to crew the test flight.

Crew training continues for SpaceX’s first launch with astronauts (4/3): The SpaceX Demo 2 test flight NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) for an extended stay at the ISS, one of perhaps two to three months. Last week, they trained for the launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), a liftoff planned no sooner than mid to late May. The flight is to advance efforts by SpaceX to achieve NASA Commercial Crew Program certification to begin the regular transportation of astronauts to and from the ISS later this year.

Space Science

Here’s the robot NASA wants to use to hunt aliens on ocean worlds (4/3): BRUIE is a NASA robot designed to explore the waters of ocean worlds, for example Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter. Autonomous, BRUIE has two wheels and can roll along the underside of an ice sheet in search of signs of life.

Other News

Northrop Grumman making good progress toward OmegA’s first launch
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman (4/3): The company is making progress toward an initial launch of the OmegA rocket in the spring of 2021. Other elements of the rocket’s launch needs, the Vehicle Assembly Building’s (VAB) High Bay 2 and the Mobile Launch Platform formerly used by the space shuttle at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), are coming together as well. Because of its national security nature, much of the OmegA work is continuing.

An urgent call for action on space traffic management
Politico (4/3): The need to better manage the space traffic in orbit around the Earth has become urgent, according to Dean Bellamy, the senior director of space strategies and development at Peraton, a government services company.

Blue Origin CEO says Jeff Bezos’ space company is hiring, denying report of possible layoffs
CNBC (4/3): Bezos on Friday countered a news report in Verge that the company planned to lay off some workers in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, the company intends to continue hiring — even if it must postpone a planned April 10 test flight of the New Shepard rocket from West Texas.

The quiet, public failure of China’s new Long March rocket (4/2): Some mystery continues to surround the cause of a Long March 7A launch failure on March 16 and the implications that could possibly have on other Long March rocket versions. China plans to assemble a space station, launch astronauts and cargo and in July launch a mission to Mars.

Parachutes guide China’s rocket debris safely to earth
Xinhuanet (4/6): During a March 9 launch of a Long March 3B rocket, China appears to have successfully tested a parachute system to control the fall of separating booster hardware. During some launches, falling rocket debris over land has endangered residents in the flight paths.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of April 5-12, 2020 (4/5): Thursday, three U.S. and Russian crew are scheduled to launch to and dock with the ISS, NASA’s Chris Cassidy, who will command, and cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Liftoff of the Soyuz MS-16 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is set for 4:05 a.m., EDT, with docking at 10:16 a.m., EDT. A SpaceX cargo mission departs the ISS Tuesday morning for an afternoon splashdown in the Pacific off the coast of Baja, California. The U.S. House and Senate remain in recess. It’s still unclear how the two houses plan to deal with 2021 appropriations.

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