Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 6th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Orion is the right – and only – crewed spacecraft capable of extended missions to the Moon and beyond, writes astronaut Tony Antonelli.  NASA and its Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion contractor team continue to make progress in preparations toward an initial uncrewed test flight, Artemis 1, in 2021. NASA looks to increase its International Space Station (ISS) crew to seven in October. Comet Neowise on course to become visible in the night sky.

Human Space Exploration

As structural testing concludes, Orion and SLS look ahead to Artemis-1
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin
America Space (7/3): Recent parallel milestones achieved in ground tests of the structural test article elements for the Orion Crew capsule and completion of those for the Space Launch System (SLS) are helping to lead the way for NASA’s Artemis 1 test flight, an SLS launch of an Orion capsule without astronauts on a multi-week mission around the moon and back to Earth. More work remains, including a “green run” full duration test firing on the SLS core stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, but the milestones support a hoped for  Artemis 1 launch late next year.

About halfway through their historic mission, a pair of NASA astronauts are preparing for their return
Washington Post (7/3): NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley launched and docked at the International Space Station (ISS) May 30/31 aboard the SpaceX Demo-2 NASA Commercial Crew Program test flight. With their stay extended, potentially until early August, Behnken has joined with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, the space station’s current commander, for two in a continuing series of spacewalks. Both Behnken and Hurley have been helping with science experiments and sharing their experiences with images of Earth.

New crew will launch to the International Space Station in October
CNN (7/3):  NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will soon enter the home stretch of their training to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in mid-October. During her first trip to the station in 2016, Rubins, a biologist and cancer researcher, became the first person to sequence DNA in space, a technology that could be used to check the health of astronauts assigned to future, long term deep space missions and identify potential life forms on planetary bodies beyond Earth. Launching on a Russian Soyuz, they hoped to be joined by four NASA and Japanese astronauts launched on a SpaceX Crew Dragon, bringing the total number of crew to seven to step up science activities. The station is currently staffed by three NASA astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts.

Space Science

Bizarre new planet is largest known rocky world, 40 times as massive as Earth
National Geographic (7/1): ABOUT 730 LIGHT-YEARS away, not far on the scale of our galaxy, an utterly bizarre planet orbits a sun-like star. Big, dense, and tightly tethered to its home star, the planet is unlike anything astronomers have yet seen—either in our own solar system or afar. The roasted world known as TOI-849b is the most massive rocky planet ever observed, with as much as 40 Earths’ worth of material crammed inside.

Staying aligned during COVID-19: APL propels space missions forward
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (7/2): As businesses across Maryland and around the country shuttered or shifted to remote work because of the pandemic, many industries were forced to find a new way forward. While APL adapted remote work to the maximum extent possible, pockets of the Lab — like the Space Exploration Sector — needed to hum along, uninterrupted.

Comet NEOWISE could give skywatchers a dazzling show this month. Here’s what to know (7/6): Comet NEOWISE appears to be living up to predictions of a naked eye comet visible in the night sky this year. Currently viewable in parts of the U.S. in the northeast sky prior to sunrise, Neowise is predicted to become viewable in the night sky to the northwest after sunset around July 12, and appearing higher in the sky in the nights to follow.

TESS mission discovers massive ice giant
MIT (7/1):  Launched in April 2018, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is seeking planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. TOI-849 b circles a star about 750 light years away, and is 3.5 times larger than the Earth, but 40 times as massive. This curious combination of statistics suggests the object may have once been part of a much larger planetary object, perhaps one the size of Jupiter or Saturn. Findings were published in the journal Nature.

Solar sail spacecraft begins extended mission
SpaceNews (7/2):  Solar Sail, an experimental satellite developed by the Planetary Society to demonstrate the ability of sunlight to raise the altitude of a small satellite, has begun an extended mission. Light Sail-2 was launched on June 25, 2019. The extension is to continue emphasizing control over the orbit, rather than altitude raising.

Op Eds

Op-ed | The right tool to go to the Moon
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin
Politico (7/2): Lockheed Martin’s Orion Mission Director Tony Antonelli, a retired space shuttle pilot and naval aviator, contends that talk of using SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to get to the Moon fails to take into account the significant “survivability” differences between Orion and spacecraft designed for shorter, less demanding trips to low Earth orbit.  Antonelli discusses the specific technologies needed to go to deep space and why Orion is the right tool for the job.

Op-ed | On the verge of a new era for space exploration? Assessing the impact of the ongoing crisis
SpaceNews (7/4): Global government spending on space is growing and forecast to rise from $20 billion in 2019 to $30 billion in 2029. The U.S. accounts for 71 percent of the current global total investment. Despite a growing worldwide interest in moving ahead and with public/private and international partnerships, there are some potential obstacles, especially for newcomers: the coronavirus pandemic, China’s growing influence and the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, according to Euroconsult principal advisor Natalia Larrea.

Other News

What is Joe Biden’s plan for space?
Quartz (7/2):  President Trump’s space policy may be best illustrated by an accelerated effort by NASA to return to the Moon with human explorers in 2024 with commercial as well as international partners and efforts to establish a Space Force as a new branch of the military. His opponent for re-election in November, Joe Biden, has endorsed nothing so specific on the space front.

`We lost the flight’ – Rocket Lab’s 13th launch fails to reach orbit after unknown problem
Forbes (7/4): Rocket Lab’s latest launch attempt from New Zealand late Sunday failed four minutes after liftoff. Lost were seven satellites, including five Planet Earth observing spacecraft.

Commercial launch industry off to slow start in 2020
SpaceNews (7/2): So far for 2019, Space News counts 45 launches globally this year, including four failures. The pace, 90 for all of 2020, would be less than the 102 for 2019. Just over half of the launches so far in 2020 have been conducted by companies located in the West. SpaceX has been the West’s most active launch services company so far in 2020.

Britain and India’s Bharti win auction for OneWeb satellite company
Reuters (7/3): The U.K. and an Indian investor have pledged $500 million each with a U. S. bankruptcy court to jointly acquire OneWeb, the emerging satellite internet connectivity company that filed for bankruptcy in March after launching 74 of a planned network of 648 small satellites. Each U.K. and Indian bidder will get a 45% stake in OneWeb if the court approves. OneWeb could position itself to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink to provide global internet connectivity.

Major space related activities for the week of July 5-11, 2020 (7/5): All 12 House appropriations subcommittees are slated this week to markup their bills for spending during the 2021 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The House Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NASA, NOAA and the Office of Space Commerce, meets on Wednesday to address NASA, and perhaps of particular interest, legislative support for the Artemis initiative to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024, a four year acceleration. The White House is seeking $25.2 billion for NASA for 2021, a 12 percent increase, though at the expense of some science missions, including Earth science and the WFIRST/Roman Space Telescope. A variety of space webinars are slated this week as well, two of them focused on the Artemis Accords.

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