Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 18th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA expresses confidence it has overcome COVID-19 pandemic and technical challenges to launch the Perseverance Mars 2020 rover mission on July 20, early in a launch period that extends to August 15 if necessary. The mission will look for evidence of past Martian life, gather and cache rock and soil samples for return to Earth and test technologies to prepare for human exploration.   

Human Space Exploration

KBR gets $570 million NASA contract to propel human space exploration endeavors
NASDAQ (6/17): KBR said that it has received a $570.3 million contract from NASA to develop and execute spaceflight operations at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The contract has one base year followed by seven years of options and includes an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity component. As per the Marshall Operations, Systems, Services and Integration contract, KBR will perform International Space Station (ISS) payload operations and support testing of the most powerful rocket ever built—the Space Launch System (SLS).

Space Science

NASA confident Mars 2020 will launch on schedule
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (6/17): Considered a priority objective as the global coronavirus pandemic began to unfold in March, NASA’s two year, $2.7 billion Perseverance Mars 2020 rover mission is now confidently on schedule to liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on July 20, or early in a launch window that extends to August 11, and if necessary, August 15., according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other key mission participants in a news briefing on Wednesday. The mission to gather samples of Martian rock and soil for a future return to Earth to assess whether microbial life arose on Mars has a second priority for NASA. Studies of the Martian environment, a drone helicopter demonstration and an experiment to extract oxygen from the thin carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars could advance future human exploration. United Launch Alliance (ULA) is providing the Atlas 5 launch vehicle.

NASA’s next Mars rover carries tribute to healthcare workers fighting coronavirus (6/17): Thanks to the efforts of NASA personnel and their medical support staff, the agency has been able to keep the launch of the Mars Perseverance rover on track for a launch scheduled for July 20, which opens a launch period that extends to August 11, and potentially August 15. As a tribute to the medical support that has kept preparations on schedule, NASA has attached a small plaque to the SUV sized rover. Missing the window would lead to a 26 month launch delay to await the next favorable alignment between the Earth and Mars for launch. The storage costs are estimated at $500 million.

NASA rushing to complete Mars launch before planet moves out of range. Mission to include first-ever helicopter exploration.
Washington Post (6/17): If successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida between July 11 and August 15, at the latest, NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover should reach the Red Planet and land on February 18, 2021. There it’s equipped to study the landscape and environment, including the soil and rocks for evidence of past microbial activity billions of years ago. Perseverance is equipped to collect and cache up to 43 samples of material to be returned to Earth by a follow on mission, perhaps returning to Earth as soon as 2031.

Study: There could be 6 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy (6/17): The 6 billion estimate comes from a new study of stars in the Milky Way galaxy by a Canadian led research team. Their data is based on observations with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 and concluded its observations in late 2018. Earth-like planets are considered to be approximately the size of the Earth with orbits within a habitable zone, which means just the right distance from a star so that water on the surface would be stable as a liquid.

Other News

U.K. – U.S. sign agreement on space launch technology
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin
BBC of Great Britain (6/17): As a diplomatic first step, representatives from the U.S. and U.K. have signed an accord, the Technology Safeguards Agreement, that would permit U.S. companies to launch from sites in Great Britain. A number of additional steps still need to be worked out to protect national security technologies from being exposed. The planned agreements could open new markets for each country. Lockheed Martin and Virgin America are among those interested in launching.

DoD issues defense space strategy (6/17): The Pentagon on Wednesday presented a phased, 10-year space security implementation strategy intended to counter national security threats in the space domain from China and Russia. The primary objectives are to maintain U.S. space superiority, provide space support to national, joint and combined operations and ensure space stability.

Roscosmos urges Pentagon to prevent potential space arms race
TASS of Russia (6/18): Responding to a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) space strategy, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, calls for a resolution seeking to prevent an arms race in space. “The militarization of outer space with the subsequent emergence of the dominant roles of our U.S. partners can disrupt the already fragile structure of relations between the two countries in this area,” states Sergei Savelyev, Roscosmos deputy director general.

China launches third Gaofen-9 satellite, postpones Beidou mission (6/17): Using a Long March 2D rocket, China on Wednesday placed an Earth observation and two small satellites into orbit. Previous plans for a Beidou navigation satellite launch were postponed for reasons not specified. The launch of a final satellite to complete the Beidou navigation and positioning system was scrubbed late Monday for then unspecified reasons.

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