Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 3rd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The House passed the FY2021 appropriation for several agencies, including NASA, on Friday. Demo-2 NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned safely to Earth Sunday afternoon, splashing down in the Gulf waters off Pensacola, Florida. NASA budget deliberations focused on the future human exploration of the Moon continue.

Space Budget/Policy

House passes FY2021 appropriations for NASA, NOAA AND FAA (7/31): The U.S. House 2021 minibus appropriations bill approved by the full House on Friday includes $22.6 billion for NASA for the fiscal year that begins October 1, a funding measure equivalent to the FY2020 top line. The bill provides strong support for NASA’s next generation Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion as well as for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The bill lacks the funding requested by the White House to develop a commercial Human Lander System (HLS) needed to achieve a 2024 return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon. A bipartisan effort to increase NASA spending by $2.6 billion to fund the lander’s development failed. As a result, the bill provides $628 million for the lander development, rather than the $3.4 billion sought by NASA. The Senate has yet to complete its 2021 budget deliberations. [Ed. note: The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration statement on the House NASA appropriations bill may be found here]

Trump’s 2024 Moon goal faces ‘challenge’ in Senate, GOP chair predicts
Politico (7/31): U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, chair of the U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee in charge of formulating the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget line that includes NASA, believes efforts to fund NASA sufficiently in 2021 to achieve a return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024 face a challenge. Lawmakers are not in favor of cutting NASA spending on STEM education, for instance. The Senate is not likely to complete its work on a budget for the 2021 budget year beginning October 1 until September, said Moran.

Human Space Exploration

Crew Dragon splashes down to end successful test flight (8/2): NASA’s two month, Demo-2 test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley ended with a successful splashdown on Sunday at 2:48 p.m., EDT in the Gulf waters off Pensacola, Florida. Soon after their recovery, Behnken and Hurley were flown by NASA to Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center (JSC), where they trained. At Houston’s Ellington Airport, they were welcomed home by a small gathering that included NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “Today, we really made history,” Bridenstine told a post splashdown news briefing. NASA had not launched nor landed astronauts from the U.S. since its space shuttle fleet was retired in July 2011.

After a splendid flight test, NASA now has a new ride to space
Ars Technica (8/2): Their Crew Dragon capsule slightly charred, NASA Demo-2 astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, on Sunday afternoon, ending a 64 day test flight to the International Space Station (ISS). It was the first round trip by astronauts to Earth orbit originating from the U.S. since NASA retired its shuttle fleet in July 2011. Within weeks, NASA will decide formally whether the commercial spacecraft will be certified for regularly scheduled launches of crews to the orbiting science lab. The first is planned for late September.

Private boats enter SpaceX splashdown area, raising concerns
New York Times (8/2): NASA and SpaceX raised concerns for the safety of astronauts splashing down after future missions, following a gathering of boaters off the Gulf coast of Pensacola, Florida, where the Demo-2 mission capsule with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley landed Sunday afternoon. The gathering placed the astronauts as well as the boating community in the region at risk, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Two space tourists to blast off to ISS in late 2021
TASS of Russia (8/1): Russia’s space agency plans to launch two space tourists to the International Space Station (ISS) in late 2021, according to the Russian news agency. The flights were arranged through Space Adventures, of Vienna, Virginia, and the names of the two space tourists are to be revealed in early 2021.

Space Science

Why is NASA sending a helicopter to Mars?
Aerotime Hub (8/2): In short, the small Ingenuity helicopter is to demonstrate two things, the possibility of flight in the very thin atmosphere of Mars and the capabilities of “off the shelf” electronics to support cameras and communications links in an environment quite different from the Earth’s. The helicopter is among the payloads carried by the Perseverance Mars 2020 rover, which was launched to the Red Planet last Thursday. Ingenuity is to be test flown after the rover lands on Mars in February 2021.

Other News

Ariane 5 rocket returning to hangar for sensor swap
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (8/1): The launch an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana with three payloads, including a second commercial Northrop Grumman mission extending vehicle, was scrubbed late in a countdown Friday evening. A sensor associated with the rocket’s first stage liquid hydrogen propellant tank was blamed and was to be replaced. A new target launch date was to be announced on Monday. The Mission Extension Vehicle is designed to dock with communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit that are running low on propellant in order to extend operations.

Ariane 5 to test modified fairing for JWST, hardware for new range safety system
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (7/31): In addition to a three satellite payload, the upcoming Ariane 5 launch will provide an opportunity to evaluate upgrades to the venting system of the rocket’s payload fairing that are part of plans to launch the NASA led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The observatory’s launch is planned for October 31, 2021. The JWST partnership includes the European and Canadian space agencies. One of the European contributions is the launch. The telescope is currently undergoing pre-launch testing and preparations at Northrop Grumman facilities in Redondo Beach, California.

A ‘very, very sneaky’ problem doomed Rocket Lab’s space mission on July 4, says CEO and founder Peter Beck
Coalition Member in the News – Rocket Lab
Business Insider (7/31): Rocket Lab has traced the failure of a July 4 launch of its Electron rocket from New Zealand with seven satellites to an upper stage electrical failure. Additional prelaunch testing will be conducted prior to upcoming missions. Rocket Lab plans to return to flight before the end of August, according to Peter Beck, CEO and founder of the California-based, small satellite launch services provider.

Air Force vetting Vandenberg Base for U.S. Space Command headquarters
Santa Barbara EDHAT (7/31): Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, has favorably cleared an initial assessment by the U.S. Air Force as a potential headquarters for the new U.S. Space Command. A decision is expected in early 2021.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of August 2-8, 2020 (8/2): Congress is largely in recess through Labor Day, September 7, this year, allowing time for the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions. But the break also means remaining work on a federal budget for the 2021 fiscal year that begins October 1 must wait, increasing the odds of a budget continuing resolution. The annual Small Satellite Conference that began Saturday continues through Thursday. Demo-2 NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who landed safely in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, will host a news briefing on Tuesday.

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