Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 12th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Despite workplace challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, NASA and its contractors are finding ways to press ahead this year with critical ground tests of the Space Launch System (SLS). Damage to the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico forces a suspension of operations.

Human Exploration

SLS Green Run test-firing to verify Core Stage design, analysis before first launch
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs (8/11): At NASA’s Stennis Space Center, engineers are working this year to complete a critical ground based “Green Run” assessment of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the powerful new rocket that is to launch the Orion capsule with astronauts on future missions to the Moon and other deep space destinations. The last two of eight evaluations are focused on loading the SLS Boeing core stage with propellants for the first time and firing the four RS-25 Aerojet Rocketdyne main engines for their full duration. The SLS hardware will then move to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for a first test flight of the SLS and Orion, Artemis 1, without astronauts in late 2021.

NASA evaluates new SLS booster materials in critical test
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman (8/11): At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, assessments of new solid rocket materials are under way for the five segment strap on boosters that help to power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the powerful new rocket that is to boost the Orion crew capsule with astronauts on missions to the Moon and beyond. The first uncrewed test launch of the SLS with Orion, Artemis 1 is planned for late 2021. A crew test flight, Artemis 2, is to follow and lead to the return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024, Artemis 3. 

Space Science

NASA’s planet hunter completes its primary mission
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (8/11): With its two year primary mission behind it, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has begun an extended search for planets beyond the solar system by turning its cameras once again to the southern sky. The extended mission will continue through September 2022. During the prime mission, TESS surveyed skies to the south, then to the north. It logged 66 new planet discoveries, and another 2,100 candidates undergoing confirmation processes. Earth-like planets orbiting their stars in the habitable zone are of greatest interest.

Broken cable damages Arecibo Observatory
University of Central Florida (8/11): The Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico was disabled early Monday by damage to a three inch support cable that led to a 100 foot long gash in the 20 acre reflector dish. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world,” said Francisco Cordova, the observatory’s director.

Perseids peak August 11-12. Get ready for the show
Sky and Telescope (8/10): The annual August Perseid meteor shower is like no other. Witness up to 100 an hour under the best night time conditions. It peaked overnight Tuesday/Wednesday, but it’s not over. Look to the Northeast. Check here how to make the most of it.

Other News

Tory Bruno on ULA’s big win: ‘We knew we were going to be competitive’
Coalition Members in the News – Astrobotic, United Launch Alliance (8/11): Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance (ULA) president and CEO, notes the company scored highest in an evaluation by the U.S. Air Force on which commercial companies were best positioned to launch U.S. national security payloads over a forthcoming six year period. The Air Force announced its selections, ULA followed by SpaceX among four competitors, on Friday.

Rocket Lab ready to attempt Electron booster recovery (8/11): Later this year, Rocket Lab intends to proceed with an attempt to recover the first stage from its Electron small launch vehicle. The company demonstrated the recovery of a dummy first stage at its New Zealand launch complex.

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