Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 20th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Hubble turns 30!  SLS makes progress. NASA, SpaceX set May 27 to resume the launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired. Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) conducts landmark satellite life extension.

Human Space Exploration

Prior to workplace closures, SLS was making good progress ahead of opening missions
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
NASA (4/17): Work toward the first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) at the Stennis and Marshall Space Flight Centers and assembly by Boeing of a second SLS core stage at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility were meeting important milestones prior to the implementation of workforce precautions in mid-March to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Work among the contractors and subcontractors as well as NASA is continuing as a priority where it can in response to workplace restrictions.

Launch date set for first SpaceX crewed mission to ISS
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (4/18): SpaceX will plans to pursue certification for regularly scheduled crew transportation to and from the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with a launch of the Crew Dragon and NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on May 27. After they dock to the Station, NASA is to decide on an extended stay for Hurley and Behnken, who would augment the current reduced Space Station crew of NASA’s Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner. U.S. human launches ceased with the retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet in 2011.

Florida Gov. DeSantis: Crowds impacted, but NASA’s May launch of astronauts is ‘critical’
Florida Today (4/19): Set for May 27, the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011 will be an historic milestone. However, observations of social distancing in response to the coronavirus will likely restrict gatherings of hundreds of thousands of spectators on Florida’s Space Coast to witness the SpaceX Crew Dragon liftoff with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

Space Science

Happy 30th, Hubble! Science Channel celebrates space telescope icon with special (4/19): NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit 30 years ago Friday. The Science Channel offered a documentary, “Hubble: Thirty Years of Discovery.” The production featured some of those that launched and upgraded the orbiting observatory over its long history of scientific discovery, including evidence for dark energy.  [Editor’s Note: “Hubble: Thirty Years of Discovery” aired Sunday night, and can be accessed via subscription to streaming services at

China wants a piece of the Moon. Here’s how it plans to handle lunar samples (4/18): China’s Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission to the Moon’s Sea of Storms is planned for launch later this year. The mission intends to return up to 4.4 pounds of surface and subsurface lunar materials. Once at Earth, the materials are to be preserved, using techniques pioneered by NASA’s Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office.

Lyrid meteor shower 2020 peaks this week! Here’s what to expect (4/19): One of the year’s best, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks Tuesday night but continues through Saturday. Look to the northeast around 9 p.m. locally. This week’s new Moon will help to darken the skies to improve viewing.

Op Eds

A U.S. return to the Moon is about preserving the rule of law (4/17): The U.S. must lead a human return to the Moon to reinforce and preserve the rule of law, one that ensures all free access to outer space. “Subordinating the rule of law to partisanship and special interest will surrender not only the national interests of the U.S. in outer space but the very body of international rule of law, including free access,” writes Michael J. Listner, founder of Space Law and Policy Solutions.

Other News

For the first time, a spacecraft has returned an aging satellite to service
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
Ars Technica (4/17): Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) succeeded in restoring the Intelsat 901 communications satellite to operations, while moving the spacecraft to conduct additional mission extension activities. MEV-1 launched in October and docked with Intelsat 901 on February 25, a first. MEV-1 is to provide five years of mission extension, then move on to another assignment. 

Air Force seeks freedom to shift money between space programs
Breaking Defense (4/16): The Space Force is seeking more flexibility in shifting funds in blocks between major programs, one means of dealing with cost or schedule overruns. The Missile Defense Agency and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) are among those already able to do so.

World View delays plans and furloughs staff because of pandemic (4/18): World View, the commercial stratospheric balloon company, has placed plans for high altitude observations over parts of North and Center America on hold to wait out the coronavirus pandemic.

Starlink satellites photographed from the ISS (4/19): As the ISS crew was photographing the Southern Lights while passing over the southern Indian Ocean on April 13, their camera caught what appears to be well over a dozen small satellites from SpaceX’s Starlink internet connectivity constellation.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of April 19-25, 2020 (4/19): With the exception of proforma sessions, the U.S. House and Senate plan to remain in recess due to the coronavirus until May 4. Legislators are nonetheless focused on actions dealing with the pandemic, including the economic impact. In space, AIAA members are hosting Doug Loverro, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, on Monday for a discussion of low Earth orbit commercial activities. NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel convenes virtually on Thursday. hosts a webinar on Thursday that is to include a discussion of Russia’s anti-satellite test from last week.
Friday marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Earth day. Russia plans a Progress cargo mission launch to and docking with the ISS late Friday/early Saturday.

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