Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 23rd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Reaching the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024 now requires stable leadership. NASA’s launch services team rehearses the countdown for a planned July 20 launch of the Perseverance Mars 2020 rover.

Human Space Exploration

Stability and certainty for NASA’s exploration efforts
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing; Coalition for Deep Space Exploration in the News
The Space Review (6/22): Earlier this month, Kathy Leuders, head of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, was promoted to the agency’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, the third person to hold the title within the past year and the first woman. Lueders’ selection won praise outside the agency. “Her immense technical and management background with NASA, coupled with her recent leadership of the commercial crew program, will be invaluable in landing the first woman and next man on the Moon,” said Mary Lynne Dittmar, president and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an industry group that represents many of the companies involved in NASA’s exploration programs. With a shaky national economy, a tense political environment and the challenges of addressing the coronavirus pandemic, stability at the top of the Artemis initiative is key.

‘Cosmic lighthouses’ could help astronauts navigate space
Futurism (6/22): Secured to the exterior of the International Space Station is an X-ray telescope called NICER.  Its job is to chart the location of fast spinning neutron stars, called pulsars. The tight spinning beams of energy emitted by these objects are providing a GPS like guidance network by which autonomous spacecraft may guide their way through space, possibly even Mars in the not too distant future.

Space Science

Atlas 5 rocket runs through practice countdown before Mars rover launch
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance (6/22): Monday marked a successful countdown rehearsal for the planned July 20 liftoff of NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch period extends through August 11, with a possible four day extension, matching a favorable alignment between the Earth and Mars in order for the car sized rover to reach its destination, the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. Perseverance, which did not participate in Monday’s rehearsal, is to be placed atop the Atlas 5 on Friday in the Cape’s Vehicle Integration Facility.

Surprise! Pluto may have had an underground ocean from the very beginning (6/22): Cold and distant, Pluto may have had a very different beginning, hot, violent and perhaps supporting an underground ocean, suggests a study led by a University of California, Santa Cruz researcher, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Observations made by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which carried out the first ever flyby of Pluto in July 2015 contributed to the modeling of how the distant Kuiper Belt object may have come into being.

Small worlds with lava oceans might have given us meteorites
New York Times (6/22): The formation of chondrites, the mysterious spheres of rocky material found within meteorites, has been a mystery. Now, researchers from Connecticut’s Wesleyan University have a theory. The setting is a crowded high temperature early solar system dating back 4.6 billion years. Add a nascent sun surrounded by many thousands of planetary building blocks called planetesimals. Oceans of high temperature lava flowed on some of the planetesimals. As small asteroids neared the searing planetesimals, the lava heated their surfaces. As the asteroids moved away, their surfaces cooled to form the chondrites.

Op Eds

Spaceflight after the pandemic
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
The Space Review (6/22): With an unstable economy, few in Congress will be tempted to cut spending on NASA’s Artemis initiative to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024, writes Eric Hedman, chief technology officer at the Logic Design Corp. A reduction would be seen as a job cutting while the nation is struggling to achieve full employment, he contends.  “Where I think existing human spaceflight programs will start to face risk of scaling back is in follow-ups to the first return to the lunar surface. If no outpost and science research is funded on the lunar surface, the program will start to resemble the flags and footprints look of Apollo,” Hedman predicts. “That will make it easy to use the ‘been there, done that’ argument again.”

Other News

Redwire acquires Made In Space
Coalition Member in the News – Made In Space (6/23): Made In Space, a pioneer of in-space manufacturing and assembly technologies, is being acquired by Redwire, a new venture that is rolling up a number of smaller space companies. The companies announced the deal June 23, terms of which they did not disclose. Made In Space, founded in 2010 and based in Jacksonville, Florida, has developed 3-D printers flown on the International Space Station (ISS) and has a NASA contract for a mission called Archinaut One to demonstrate the in-space assembly of solar arrays.

Shares of Virgin Galactic surge after announcement that it will train astronauts for NASA
CNBC (6/22): Virgin Galactic, the suborbital passenger launch services company, announced provisions of a new NASA Space Act Agreement early Monday in which it will help to recruit, train and arrange the launches of private astronauts for missions to the International Space Station (ISS), including those focused on research and technology development activities. The company’s stock share price rose 16 percent on the news, closing the day at $17.39 per share.

FAA shooting for September for updated commercial space launch regulations (6/22): A year later than planned initially, the FAA is aiming for a September release of updated regulations for the commercial space launch industry, which will address the re-entry as well as the liftoff of launch vehicles. Speaking virtually before the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, Wayne Monteith, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, addressed the matter on Monday. Efforts last year to streamline regulations in response to a White House directive issued in May 2018, raised industry concerns that are now being addressed administratively.

China launches final Beidou navigation satellite (6/23): Using a Long March 3B rocket, China placed the 35th and final satellite of its Beidou-3GEO3 satellite navigation constellation in orbit late Monday.  With a successful check out, China will now have a third generation, global scale space navigation network.

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