Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 10th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Plans for the initial elements of a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway move ahead. New research suggests the Martian terrain may have been shaped by glaciers and ice sheets as well as flowing water. Russia plans a late 2021 mission to assess the site for a possible Moon base. China and Argentina agree to collaborate in the exploration of space.

Space Policy

China amendments pose hurdle for NASA authorization
Politico (8/7): A Senate NASA reauthorization measure, NASA’s first since 2017, would extend NASA oversight of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2030. Two amendments proposed by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, of Colorado, would require the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review contractors for possible ties to China, while requiring NASA’s administrator assess contractual ties in order to prevent the theft of intellectual property.

Human Space Exploration

Northrop Grumman outlines HALO plans for Gateway’s central module
Coalition Members in the News – Maxar Technologies, Northrop Grumman (8/7): The article offers an update on how Northrop Grumman’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO module, and Maxar’s Power and Propulsion Module (PPE) The two components are to come together for a single launch to lunar orbit in 2023 as the core for NASA’s human tended Gateway. Key development milestones include a preliminary design review planned for October 2020; a critical design review planned for late 2020 or early 2021; and a systems critical design review planned for June 2021.

Space Science

Ancient valleys may hold clues to past life on Mars
Popular Science (8/5): New studies assess conditions on Mars at about the same time that life arose on Earth. The Arizona State University (ASU) led research effort determined that glaciers as well as ice sheets, spring water and flowing rivers helped to shape the surface of the Red Planet’s southern highlands. The modeling suggests different environmental conditions on Mars in which life may have emerged. Samples of surface material gathered by NASA’s just launched Perseverance Mars 2020 rover may help to further define the prospect when the soil and rock are returned to Earth.

Russia gearing up to launch Moon mission in 2021 (8/7): The elements of Russia’s Luna 25 robotic spacecraft mission to the Moon’s south pole are coming together for a planned October 2021 launch. The mission is to evaluate the lunar regolith, dust and plasma exosphere at a site eyed by multiple space powers as the site for a Moon base. “Luna-25 is the opening moonshot of a reactivated Russian lunar program that includes an orbiter and a plan to haul lunar samples back to Earth,” reports.

Mysterious ‘fast radio burst’ detected closer to Earth than ever before (8/9): A blast of cosmic energy known as a Fast Radio Burst that was detected by observatories on Earth on April 28 has been traced to a known star in the Milky Way galaxy for the first time. The source of the rapid bursts has puzzled scientists since they were first detected in 2007. The April 28 burst was traced to a known neutron star, the fast spinning remnant core of a dead star an estimated 30,000 light years away.

A star went supernova in 1987. Where is it now?
New York Times (8/7): Two studies suggest the remnant of a 1987 star explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite star system to the Milky Way, is now a neutron star. “Neutron stars are the densest stable configurations of matter in the universe typically with half again as much mass as the sun, compressed into a ball the size of Boston.” the Times reports. “Any more mass falling on a neutron star could tip it into the endless collapse of a black hole.”

The 2020 Perseid meteor shower (8/9): One of the year’s best, the Perseid meteor shower peaks the nights of August 11-13. The debris is from the tail of comet Swift Tuttle. Best viewing is after 10 p.m. Report includes a where to look skymap, one for each of the peak nights.

Other News

In a consequential decision, Air Force picks its rockets for mid-2020s launches
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (8/7): Late Friday, the U.S. Air Force announced the selections of United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX for the launch of national security payloads from 2022 to 2026. The move assures a strong market for ULA’s new Vulcan-Centaur and the BE-4 rocket engine manufactured by Blue Origin and for SpaceX, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Other competitors were Northrop Grumman’s Omega rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn.

China and Argentina resume joint venture for space exploration
Bloomberg (8/8): The two countries have renewed a space collaboration agreement that calls for cooperation in the development of spacecraft and other instruments for space exploration, as well as land infrastructure to launch and control space missions and satellites and exchanges of data and research findings. China’s CNSA and Argentina’s counterpart to China’s space agency, CONAE, will lead the cooperative effort. Recent changes in the Argentine political environment led to a renewal of the collaboration in late July.

Mubadala, affiliates disclose stakes in Virgin Galactic
Arabian Business (8/8): Mubadala and affiliates, of Abu Dhabi, have acquired individual 7.1 percent stakes in Virgin Galactic, the emerging suborbital space tourism company. The affiliates include Aabar Space, Aabar Investments and the International Petroleum Investment Co.

More steps forward for Space Command and Space Force (8/7): The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed the nomination of Army Lt. Gen. James Dickinson as the new commander of the U.S. Space Command along with four others who will hold top positions in the U.S. Space Force. Dickinson, who was the deputy commander, succeeds Gen. Jay Raymond, who will continue as Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force, a second position he has held since December.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of August 9-15, 2020 (8/9): Look for a lot of virtual space policy forums over the week. After the wrap-up for NASA’s Demo-2 test flight and the launch of U.S., Chinese, UAE and Indian missions to Mars, the space operations front looks relatively sedate over the coming week. As far as the U.S. House and Senate, their schedules are in flux through Labor Day as they deal with a new round of financial matters linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

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