Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 21st, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley arrive at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to prepare for the launch of the NASA Commercial Crew Program/SpaceX Demo-2 test fight to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA renames the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST) for former chief astronomer Nancy Grace Roman. 

Human Space Exploration

Dragon crew arrives at Florida spaceport kick off final week of launch preps (5/20): NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley transitioned from NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday to prepare for their scheduled May 27 launch to the ISS on the NASA Commercial Crew Program/SpaceX Demo-2 test flight of the Crew Dragon. It will be the first launch of astronauts from the U.S. since the final NASA shuttle mission in July 2011. “This is an awesome time to be an astronaut with a new spacecraft to get a chance to go and fly,” Behnken told news media assembled for their arrival at KSC.

Before SpaceX can ‘capture the flag,’ an astronaut had to find it (5/20): The crew of STS-135, NASA’s final space shuttle flight left a commemorative U.S. flag aboard the International Space Station (ISS), a Stars and Stripes that was flown aboard the first shuttle flight in 1981. The plan as STS-135’s crew left the ISS in July 2011 was that the crew of the next U.S. spacecraft would retrieve the flag and return it to Earth. Then Old Glory went missing until relocated among storage items aboard the ISS in early June 2018. The NASA Commercial Crew Program/SpaceX Demo-2 crew of Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, also the STS-135 pilot, are to launch to the ISS on May 27 for a lengthy test flight, the first launch of astronauts from the U.S. since the final shuttle flight. They are to return with the U.S. flag so that it may launch again one day

Japanese cargo vehicle lifts off to resupply ISS crew
NASA (5/20): Japan launched a resupply mission to the ISS on Wednesday with a four ton cargo. The HTV-9 spacecraft is to rendezvous with the three person, orbiting science lab early Monday. The delivery includes a final set of six lithium ion solar power storage batteries, which will replace a dozen aging, less efficient nickel hydrogen batteries on the Station’s external solar power truss with NASA spacewalks. It will be the final chapter in a four chapter effort that began in early 2017 to replace all 48 of the nickel hydrogen batteries with 24 lithium ion units. The batteries charge while the Station is in sunlight in order to provide electricity when the Station is in the dark portion of each orbit of the Earth.

The first footprints on Mars could belong to this geologist (5/19):  Planetary geologist Jessica Watkins is among the six women and seven men who completed their initial NASA astronaut training in January 2020. She’s among those now preparing for a range of future mission opportunities to possible destinations that include the ISS and the surfaces of the Moon and Mars. “I have wanted to be an astronaut since I was pretty little,” said Watkins. “Mars is definitely my first love.”

Space Science

NASA plan to sample asteroid Bennu delayed by coronavirus pandemic (5/20): Osiris-Rex, NASA’s first ever mission to retrieve a sample from an asteroid has moved the planned date for its landing on Bennu from late August to October 20. The slip is due to work schedules changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the mission team. Osiris-Rex was launched in September 2016 and reached the 500 meter wide asteroid in December 2018. The plan is to land and acquire a surface sample and return it to Earth in a sample container that will be dropped off for a parachute assisted landing onto the U.S. Army Test and Training Range in Utah on September 24, 2023. The return date has not changed.

NASA renames WFIRST space telescope after astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, the ‘Mother of Hubble’ (5/20): The name of the late Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s first chief astronomer and an early advocate for the Hubble Space Telescope, will grace the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope, of WFIRST for short, which the space agency is working to develop for a launch in 2025. NASA’s first chief astronomer, Roman joined NASA in 1959 and was instrumental in setting up the development effort for the Hubble Space Telescope and drawing support from beyond the space agency.  Roman retired from NASA in 1979 and passed away in 2018. “It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Other News

Ruag Space CEO leaves company
Coalition Member in the New – Ruag Space (5/20): The longtime chief executive of Ruag Space, Peter Guggenbach, is leaving to “take on a new challenge outside the company,” Ruag announced May 19. Guggenbach was CEO of Ruag Space, a supplier of rocket and satellite parts, for 11 years, according to LinkedIn. While at Ruag, he helped the Swiss company expand into the U.S. market, which now counts for a third of Ruag Space’s revenue. Luis De León Chardel, the deputy head of Ruag Space, is taking over management on an interim basis.

Sir Richard Branson: Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend (5/20): British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems. Virgin Orbit engineers will only proceed with the test mission if the weather over the Pacific launch zone is favorable. If it is, the former Virgin Atlantic jumbo, now named Cosmic Girl, will carry the rocket, dubbed LauncherOne, to an altitude of about 35,000ft (10km), where it will drop the liquid-fuelled booster into a freefall. Roughly four seconds into that fall, as Cosmic Girl banks hard to the right, LauncherOne will ignite its Newton Three engine to begin the climb to orbit. The dummy payload atop the rocket’s upper-stage will be released after 32 minutes.

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