Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 29th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA astronauts have begun a series of spacewalks to complete a solar power system battery upgrade outside the International Space Station (ISS). The Canadian Space Agency selects a contractor for a third space robot arm, the latest destined for the NASA led, lunar orbiting human tended Gateway. In a new Op Ed, Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, discusses the technical and geopolitical aspects of NASA’s Artemis program that explain why NASA’s mission to the Moon is about far more than cost. 

Human Space Exploration

Spacewalking astronauts tackle battery upgrade at Space Station (6/26): NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken successfully carried out the first in a series of spacewalks planned aboard the International Space Station (ISS) through July to replace aging solar power system nickel hydrogen storage batteries with more efficient lithium ion units. They embarked Friday on a six hour spacewalk that marked the start of a fourth round of battery change outs. Twelve nickel hydrogen batteries on two power channels positioned on the far starboard end of the Station’s 360 foot long solar power truss are to be replaced with six lithium ion batteries. The previous rounds began in January 2017 and continued in March 2019 and October 2019 through January 2020. Canada selects a contractor for a third generation space robot arm, the latest for NASA’s lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway. 

Russia’s only female cosmonaut expected to make spaceflight in autumn of 2022
TASS of Russia (6/26): Russia’s sole female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, who was selected for training in 2012, could launch in the autumn of 2022, Oleg Konenko, chief of the cosmonaut corps, said Friday. Elena Serova was the most recent female cosmonaut to launch. She spent 167 days on an International Space Station (ISS) mission in 2014-15.

Building the next Canadarm
Canadian Space Agency (6/26): Canada’s Space Agency announced Friday that it plans to contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Inc. to develop a third generation space robot arm, the most recent version for NASA’s lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway. Previous Canadian robot arms flew on NASA’s space shuttle and on the International Space Station (ISS). The Gateway is to be part of a NASA led partnership with international partners and the commercial sector to establish a sustained human presence at the Moon by 2028. NASA’s Artemis 3 mission is to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024.

Senate votes to name NASA facility after Neil Armstrong
WLIO-TV of Lima Ohio (6/28): The U.S. Senate last week approved the re-designation of NASA’s Plum Brook Test Facility in Ohio after native son the late Neil Armstrong, who commanded the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission. Plum Brook is where spacecraft like NASA’s Orion crew capsule undergo testing prior to spaceflight. Armstrong, a Navy test pilot, astronaut and aerospace engineering professor passed away in 2012. He was 82.

Space Science

Astronomers discover nearby super-Earths that could “potentially host life”
CBS News (6/26): A pair of super Earths that orbit the red dwarf star Gliese 887, 11 light years from the Earth, could possibly host life, according to a research effort published in the journal Science and based on observations with the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

China’s lunar rover travels about 463 meters on Moon’s far side
Xinhuanet (6/28):  After conducting the first ever landing on the Moon’s far side at the Von Karmen Crafter, China’s Yutu-2 rover has traveled 463 meters over 19 periods of lunar sunlight. Designed to function for three months, Yutu-2 is gathering data that may help to explain the Moon’s evolution.

Skywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in July
Washington Post (6/27): The July night sky will feature observations of Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon near each other early in the month. Mars rises in the overnight sky after midnight, as the planned July 22 launch of NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover nears.

Op Ed

NASA’s mission to the Moon is about far more than cost
Coalition for Deep Space Exploration in the News

The Hill (6/26): “Decisions about what systems the U.S. will deploy to the moon and Mars do not easily boil down to a simplistic cost equation,” writes Mary Lynne Dittmar, president and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. Instead, technical reasons – such as the enhanced capabilities of crewed space craft and super heavy launch vehicles designed for deep space – and geopolitical considerations pertaining to competition among nations and U.S. national security concerns, determine the development and deployment of deep space systems. NASA has adopted an approach that uses government systems and commercial systems together, in accord with Congressional direction and recent Space Policy Directives from the White House, she writes.

Other News

ESA starts search for next director general (6/26) Jan Woerner’s first term as director general of the European Space Agency (ESA) ends in mid-2021, and he’s announced he will not seek a second. A search is underway for a successor. Applications will be accepted through the end of August.

Dream Chaser receives thermal protection system, on track for 2021 debut
Coalition Members in the News – Astrobotic, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (6/26): Sierra Nevada’s DreamChaser is one of three spacecraft under contract to NASA for the launch cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Expected to fly for the first time in 2021, the winged reusable DreamChaser has now received the thermal protection components it needs to begin launching. DreamChaser is unique in that it will return to Earth from the space station with payloads by landing on a runway.

British-led consortium favored to acquire OneWeb broadband satellite network
Coalition Member in the News – OneWeb (6/27): A consortium backed by the British government appears to be the most likely buyer of OneWeb, the satellite internet connectivity venture that in March filed for bankruptcy. There had been speculation Amazon was interested.

Sutherland spaceport gets planning approvals
Aviation Week (6/26): Plans for a vertical launch complex in northern Scotland are proceeding toward approval thanks to the backing of local authorities. The next hurdle is a review by Scottish ministers. If favorable, the review will permit construction work to get underway. The process will seek minimal impact to wildlife and the natural environment. “The U.K. is seen as an attractive launch location for access to polar and Sun-synchronous orbits,” according to the report.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of June 28 – July 4, 2020 (6/28): Bottomline legislative action on appropriations and authorization measures for the 2021 fiscal year that gets underway on October 1, continues to progress slowly due to the COVID-19  pandemic and the precautionary response. However away from Capitol Hill, there is much discussion over space policy and priorities. The National Academies’ Committee on Space Propulsion Technologies hosts a virtual briefing on Monday. Tuesday is Asteroid Day, a global recognition marking the anniversary of the 2008 Tunguska event in which a large asteroid exploded in the atmosphere over Siberia, leveling a large forested region. On Wednesday, NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken are scheduled for the second in a series of spacewalks to upgrade solar power system batteries on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS).

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