Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 2nd, 2020

Today’s Deep Space Extra will not be published tomorrow, July 3, in observance of Independence Day.  It will return on Monday, July 6. 

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Orion crew capsule Structural Test Article performs well in recent ground assessment. NASA spacewalkers continue International Space Station (ISS) battery upgrade. Japan plans to double annual spending on space. China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission could launch ahead of NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover. Moon may be more metal rich than previously thought.

Human Space Exploration

Orion’s ‘twin’ completes structural testing for Artemis I mission
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (7/1): An Orion crew capsule Structural Test Article recently underwent rigorous testing at Lockheed Martin facilities in Denver to assess how the vehicle would perform once launched on NASA’s Artemis 1 test flight, which is to propel it around the Moon after liftoff on a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery. The test without astronauts aboard is to be repeated with Artemis 2, which will have a crew aboard. Those are to set up Artemis 3, an accelerated return to the Moon with human explorers in 2024, featuring astronauts launched in an Orion capsule by an SLS rocket. The recent series of Lockheed Martin tests began in 2017 and concluded in June. “These results give us continued confidence that Orion is ready for its first Artemis flight to the Moon next year,” said Howard Hu, NASA’s acting Orion program manager.

Spacewalkers complete penultimate set of battery upgrades for Space Station (7/1): NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken on Wednesday completed the second spacewalk in a planned series of July excursions to upgrade solar power system batteries on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). Wednesday’s six hour outing completed the exchange of aging nickel hydrogen for more efficient lithium ion batteries on one of two power channels on the far starboard side of the Station’s long solar power truss. Six of the older batteries have been replaced with three new ones with a pair of spacewalks that got underway last Friday. At least two more spacewalks are anticipated in July to repeat the work at a second and adjacent power channel. A campaign to replace all 48 of the Station’s nickel hydrogen batteries with 24 lithium ion units began in January 2017.

Amid rivalry with China, Japan is aiming for the Moon and beyond
This Week in Asia (7/1): Japan’s Cabinet this week approved a five year Basic Plan on Space Policy that would double its current spending on space, $11 billion annually, by the early 2030’s. Cooperation with NASA on Artemis, the U.S. initiative to carry out an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024, and pursuing a larger role for the commercial sector and providing robotic missions are part of the plan. Japan also hopes one of NASA’s early Artemis missions to the lunar surface will include a Japanese astronaut. Cooperation on missions monitoring national security threats posed by China and North Korea are planned as well.

Space Science

China eyes July 20-25 launch for Mars rover
Channel News Asia (7/1): China’s first ever planetary mission, the Tianwen-1 combined Mars orbiter, lander and rover, is set for launch to the Red Planet between July 20- 25. Recent delays in the launch of NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 Rover have pushed the much anticipated mission’s liftoff to no earlier than July 30 in a window that extends to August 15, and possibly a few days longer. Both spacecraft are scheduled to reach Mars in February. The Tianwen-1 rover is expected to collect samples from the Martian surface, according to the report. Perseverance is to study the past potential habitability of an ancient Martian crater lake and stream delta and gather and cache samples of rock and soil for eventual return to Earth.

Radar points to Moon being more metallic than researchers thought
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (7/1): Re-assessing the Moon’s northern hemisphere dark depressions, or maria, is providing evidence the Moon could be a rich source of subsurface iron and titanium oxide, each a potential resource. Data assessing the di-electric constant of surface material were provided by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Prospector missions and Japan’s Kaguya mission. The Moon is believed to have been created by a collision between the Earth and a second relatively large planetary body early in the history of the solar system. Previous studies of materials in the lunar highlands suggested the Moon was metal poor compared to the Earth.

Distant and complete mayhem in a distant galaxy collision
Universe Today (7/1): Europe’s globally distributed radio telescope, the European Low-Frequency Array Radio Telescope, has joined with other observatories in a bid to reveal the source of unusual turmoil underway in the galaxy cluster Abell 2055.

Exposed planetary core spotted circling distant star (7/1): Astronomers believe TOI 849b could offer scientists new insight into the planet forming process. TOI 849b is a planetary core, a planet devoid of its mantle and crust. The find suggests there is still much more to be learned about the way planets form and evolve. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) made the discovery. TOI 849b is two to three times the size of planet Neptune and quite hotter because of its closeness to its parent star. The study led by a British researcher was published in the journal Nature.

Other News

Blue Origin delivers the first BE-4 engine to United Launch Alliance
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (7/1): United Launch Alliance (ULA) took delivery this week of its first Blue Origin manufactured BE-4 rocket engine. Two of the BE-4s are to power the first stage of ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. A second engine in support of ULA testing is to arrive this month. The first of the liquid oxygen and natural gas rocket engines is considered a pathfinder. A pair of production quality BE-4s will be needed to build the first of the Vulcan Centaurs, which could launch for the first time in 2021. The timing could be key to the company’s efforts to secure a U.S. Space Force contract for the launch of national security payloads into the 2020’s.

GPS committee calls FCC Ligado order a “grave error” (7/1): The National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board, a panel of experts assigned to advise the federal government, took exception Monday to the FCC’s recent decision to approve Ligado’s 5G network access to spectrum neighboring that used by U.S. national security agencies for GPS data. The GPS is also shared with civilian users and is considered part of the nation’s economic equation. “The FCC has made a grave error in authorizing the high-power terrestrial communications network in this spectrum right next to GPS…” asserted Brad Parkinson, the panel’s vice chairman and a developer of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

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