Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 15th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee wrapped up a two day session expressing significant concerns about the schedule and complexity of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program/SpaceX Demo 2 test flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley nears.

Human Space Exploration

NASA advisers skeptical of agency’s ability to meet 2024 lunar landing goal
Coalition Member in the News – Dynetics (5/15): Members of a NASA advisory committee expressed doubts that the agency can return humans to the moon by 2024 as currently planned, as well as concerns about the approach the agency is using to develop lunar landers. At the conclusion of a two-day meeting May 14 of the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee, some members said they didn’t think NASA would be able to achieve the goal of a 2024 lunar landing given the progress the agency had made so far and the experience from the Apollo program more than half a century ago.

The elephant in the room — can NASA get astronauts on the Moon by 2024? (5/14): The Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the independent NASA Advisory Council wrapped up the second day of a two day meeting on Thursday suggesting efforts to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024 will be tough. While well over a decade has been invested in developing two cornerstones, the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule, NASA only recently selected a trio of commercial partners to pursue a Human Landing System (HLS) to actually touchdown on the Moon. Committee chair Wayne Hale urged his colleagues to offer advice that would give NASA the best chance of meeting the date set by the White House last year.

NASA and SpaceX are now less than two weeks from a historic crew launch (5/14): Yes, NASA is ready to launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s space shuttle fleet was retired in July 2011 on May 27. However, there are pre-launch assessments and a milestone Flight Readiness Review set for May 21 that NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX must clear before the launch of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) can proceed. With success, NASA will be close to having its first commercial capability to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Here’s what SpaceX and NASA’s crucial Crew Dragon mission should look like on May 27
TechCrunch (5/27): The planned NASA Commercial Crew Program/SpaceX launch on May 27 will send NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on a test flight of the Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission will mark the first time astronauts have launched from the U.S. since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in July 2011. The video portrays how the NASA/SpaceX partnership expects the flight to unfold.

Space Science

First look: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) fully stowed
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (5/14): The NASA-led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been folded into its launch configuration for a round of pre-launch acoustic and vibration tests followed by a session mimicking the deployment sequence the observatory is to follow after launching from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2021. JWST, the designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is at Northrop Grumman facilities in Redondo Beach, California.

ExoMars rover upgrades and parachute tests
European Space Agency (5/15): Unable to make a mid-2020 launch window for the launch of its ExoMars lander and rover to the Red Planet, the European Space Agency (ESA) is now looking to a 2022 send off and using the additional time to test landing parachutes and upgrade science instruments and solar panels.

A sun-watching spacecraft just might fly through tail of Comet ATLAS in rare encounter (5/14): Just weeks ago, observers were hopeful that comet Atlas would be become naked eye bright as it neared the sun in May. Then, it broke apart as some astronomers cautioned. All is not lost. The NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) Solar Orbiter spacecraft is equipped to gather scientific data on the composition of the comet’s tail.

This NASA mission may cause an artificial meteor shower
New York Times (5/13): In September 2022, NASA intends to demonstrate a possible defense against an asteroid if it was on a course to impact the Earth. The DART mission will send an impactor into the small moon of an asteroid called Didymos. The impact is anticipated to create thousands of small debris that could become a source of meteor showers on Earth after the contact. Some are suggesting the timing should be changed slightly to avoid the shower.

Other News

Intelsat declares bankruptcy as means to fund C-band spectrum clearing (5/14): Virginia and Luxemboug-based satellite operator Intelsat has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. courts but is pursuing efforts to continue operations and participate in an FCC spectrum clearing campaign. Intelsat, operator of an estimated 50 communication satellites, is the third company in its class to file. Speedcast filed in April, and startup OneWeb in March.

Pentagon keeping an eye on space industry bankruptcies but no actions planned yet (5/14): Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said Thursday the Pentagon is monitoring the financial status of the space industry, especially those struggling to survive the financial storm surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. However, there is no broad plan to intervene, except in the case of key suppliers or a company in financial difficulty that is being targeted for acquisition by potential foreign investors.

Next X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) scheduled to launch (5/6): The Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, in partnership with the U.S. Space Force, is scheduled to launch the sixth mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) on May 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The Department of the Air Force continues to push the flight envelope for the X-37B, and will build upon its growing collaboration with experiment partners with its sixth mission.

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