Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 8th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Orion capsule and booster elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) achieve development milestones as part of the Artemis human deep space exploration initiative. China launches and lands a reusable rocket. 

Human Space Exploration

NASA’s Moon-bound Orion spacecraft is officially fit for flight
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
Futurism (9/3): NASA’s Orion crew capsule has successfully completed its System Acceptance Review and Design Certification Review, meaning the spacecraft is prepared to launch on its first mission around the Moon and back to Earth, Artemis 1, in late 2021. Uncrewed, Artemis 1 is the first of three missions that are to lead to a return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon with Artemis 3 in 2024.

Solid fuel booster for NASA’s new moon rocket test fired in Utah
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Northrop Grumman
CBS News (9/2): Last Wednesday, Northrop Grumman successfully ground tested an upgraded version of the twin solid rocket motors that are to power each launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The two minute, Flight Booster Test-1 test in Promontory, Utah exercised the booster version intended to power the planned Artemis 4 through 9 missions that are to follow NASA’s Artemis 3 mission to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. The twin five segment solid rocket motors provide 75 percent of the SLS thrust during the first two minutes of flight.

Future of space station commercialization needs fresh ideas and support, panel finds
Coalition Members in the News – Axiom Space, Made in Space (9/2): Commercial low Earth orbit space pioneers urged policymakers to consider more government investment, tax incentives and regulatory clarity in efforts to assure the private sector it can address NASA’s needs as well of those of an emerging space economy as the agency’s human exploration focus transitions to the Moon and Mars. The matter was discussed during a recent (August 27) International Space Station (ISS) Research and Development Conference. NASA oversight of the orbiting science lab is currently planned through 2024

NASA to seek proposals for lunar nuclear power system
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (9/2): By early October, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) plan to release a request for proposals for a nuclear power system to be developed to support future human lunar and Mars exploration. The first phase of a Fission Surface Power effort seeks to develop a 10 KW fission power system that could be ready for use at the Moon by 2027. A 1 KW demonstrator called Kilopower was demonstrated in Nevada in 2018. Still to be decided is the fuel source, highly enriched uranium or low enriched uranium, which is not as technically mature but not a security concern.

What the International Space Station teaches us about our future in space
National Geographic (9/3): A look at the International Space Station (ISS) as it nears 20 years of a continuous human presence in early November. The U.S. led international partnership has focused on scientific discovery and advances in technology, while preparing a global partnership of 15 countries to explore deep space.

Space Science

‘Super bacteria’ survive for three years outside Space Station
BBC (9/6): Japanese researchers have made a surprise discovery: a hardy strain of bacteria placed outside the International Space Station (ISS) managed to survive three years, a hint as to whether life may exist beyond Earth.

‘Mighty mice’ stay musclebound in space, boon for astronauts
Associated Press via ABC News (9/7): A rodent experiment launched to the International Space Station (ISS) last December has provided researchers with evidence that genetically inhibiting proteins that block muscle mass might offer a countermeasure to the loss of bone and muscle mass experienced by astronauts in response to the absence of gravity. The findings by a team of Connecticut researchers is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rocket limbo complicating NASA’s Europa Clipper mission (9/4): Mission planners at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) must decide soon on how to launch Europa Clipper, a mission to Europa, an ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter that may host habitable environments. Congress has backed the Clipper’s multiple flyby mission of Europa and a follow on Europa Lander mission as priorities for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which has faced schedule and budget challenges meeting planned Artemis missions, including Artemis 3, which is to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Jan Chodas, the JPL Clipper project manager, told a fall meeting of NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group last week that mission planners need a decision by the end of the calendar year on whether it can seek an alternative launch vehicle in order to meet 2025 and 2027 launch dates for the Europa Clipper and Lander missions.

‘Chandrayaan-3’ Moon mission to be launched early next year, won’t include orbiter this time
Daily News and Analysis of India (9/7): India’s Chandrayaan 2 mission succeeded in placing an orbiter around the Moon in mid-2019. The lander and rover elements of the mission, however, were unsuccessful in their efforts to land at the lunar south pole due to a communications issue. India has announced plans to try again to become only the fourth nation to achieve a lunar soft landing with the launch of Chandrayaan-3 in the first quarter of 2021. The mission will proceed with a lander and rover.

Other News

New White House Space Policy Directive addresses cybersecurity (9/4): Space Policy Directive-5, released by the White House last Friday addresses five space cybersecurity concerns: infrastructure, including software; unauthorized access; best practices and mitigation; and risk trades.

Study raises new concerns about lack of governing norms in space (9/3): A report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) expresses concerns for space governance and norms in three familiar arenas, space traffic management and risks posed by growing amounts of orbital debris; rendezvous and proximity operations in low Earth orbit; and insurance requirements. “Without clear national regulations and policies, the challenge to find international consensus and define technical standards for key issues in space governance remains bleak,” according to Kaitlyn Johnson, a CSIS analyst.

Vega rocket deploys 53 satellites on successful return to flight mission
Coalition Members in the News – Airbus, Maxar (9/3): A September 3 Vega launch from French Guiana set a record for the most satellites deployed by a European launch vehicle, 53 from 13 different countries. The flight was the first for a Vega since a July 2019 launch failure due to a second stage structural deficiency.

Lisa Campbell becomes the first woman to head the Canadian Space Agency
CBC of Canada (9/3): Lisa Campbell, previously associate deputy minister for Veterans’ Affairs of Canada, has been selected as the first woman president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She succeeds Sylvain Laporte at a point when Canada is preparing to contribute an advanced robot arm to NASA’s planned Gateway, a lunar orbiting, human tended outpost.

SpaceX hops a full-scale Starship prototype for the second time
Ars Technica (9/3): SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype launched to an altitude of 150 meters and landed at its South Texas production and test facility last Thursday, the latest step in an effort to produce a powerful reusable rocket. Tests to higher altitude are anticipated to demonstrate propulsive control over the liquid methane and oxygen fueled rocket that is part of company founder Elon Musk’s vision of settling Mars.

Chinese rocket booster appears to crash near school during Gaofen 11 satellite launch (9/7): China launched a high resolution Earth observation satellite Sunday using a Long March 4B rocket. Videos of the launch indicate the first stage exploded close to a village near a school yard.

China’s “spaceplane” lands (9/6): China demonstrated a breakthrough in reusable spaceflight on Sunday when a spacecraft launched under a veil of secrecy two days earlier landed.

Chinese reusable experimental spacecraft releases object before returning to Earth (9/7): China disclosed the initial launch of a reusable experimental spacecraft last Friday. The spacecraft returned to a landing site in China after “a period of in orbit operation,” according to a Chinese news agency, Xinhuanet. Prior to Sunday’s landing, the spacecraft deployed another object, though its nature was not disclosed. The launch has been described as reminiscent of the U.S. Air Force reusable X-37-B, which is currently on a sixth orbital mission.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of September 6-12, 2020
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (9/6): Several virtual meetings regarding space policy are on tap this week. The U.S. Department of Energy is hosting one of those on Thursday regarding its role in space exploration. Also on Thursday, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, hosts a virtual town hall and activity update and the NASA Advisory Council’s science committee meets. Meanwhile, the 2020 U.S. fiscal year is drawing to a close on September 30, with no Senate action nor a formal agreement yet on a spending plan once the 2021 budget year begins October 1. The Senate returns to work this week, while the House meets for committee hearings.

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