Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 16th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center hosts further evaluation of a commercial human lunar lander prospect. The International Space Station (ISS) is in line to soon receive a commercial airlock. Possible life on Venus? The prospect is to receive more study.

Human Space Exploration

Dynetics marks progress with Artemis Human Landing System (HLS) test article development
Coalition Member in the News – Dynetics 
Parabolic Arc (9/15): Dynetics, one of the three team leads under contract to NASA for initial development of a lunar Human Lander System (HLS), has completed a full scale test article now in place at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for evaluation. NASA contracted teams led by Blue Origin and SpaceX as well as Dynetics to compete for a means of shuttling astronauts launched in Orion crew capsules atop the Space Launch System (SLS) from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon. Artemis 3, the first mission with astronauts is planned for 2024 if sufficiently funded by Congress and the White House.

The first commercial airlock is heading to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year
Coalition Member in the News – Nanoracks
The Verge (9/15): Nanoracks, a Houston-based space enterprise that aspires to one day host a free-flying space station, is in the final stages of checking out a commercial airlock slated to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year. Shaped like a large metal cup, the Bishop airlock is designed to berth at the orbiting science lab’s U.S. segment Node 3, where it will host science experiments and a small satellite deployer. Bishop can also be unberthed to expose experiments to vacuum or move equipment around outside the Space Station.

Space Science

NASA takes flight to study California’s wildfire burn areas
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (9/15): Whether it’s the hurricane prone Gulf of Mexico or the devastation from wildfires in California and other regions of the western U.S., 2020 and nature have presented a challenge to millions already confronted by the coronavirus pandemic, a troubled economy and political strife. On the wildfire front, a NASA aircraft has been surveying California to identify damaged structures, mapping burned areas and regions that could be at risk due to landslides and debris flows. The effort is being carried out with an Uninhabited Air Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) instrument on a NASA C-20A aircraft operating from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

Life on Venus? Breakthrough Initiatives funds study of possible biosignature detection (9/16): Breakthrough Initiatives, a search for extraterrestrial life advocacy nonprofit, will fund further analysis of research findings announced Monday outlining the discovery of phosphine gas traces in the upper cloud layers of Venus. Phosphine is a possible signature of biological activity in an oxygen free environment. Sara Seager, an MIT planetary scientist who participated in the discovery made using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, will lead the Breakthrough Initiatives follow-up. Venus has been considered too hot and its atmosphere too toxic for life, and there are possible non-biological sources for the presence of phosphine.

Acids may have destroyed evidence of life on Mars (9/15): While Mars may have teamed with life during a warmer and wetter distant past, it has been difficult to find convincing evidence so far. It may be that a flow of acidic fluids on the Red Planet altered clay soils in such a way as to destroy evidence of organics, the building blocks of life, according to a new research effort with Cornell University participation. The findings appear in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover mission, enroute to Jezero Crater on Mars, will continue the search for evidence of past microbial life.

Other News

Tory Bruno reveals Chinese company tried to infiltrate ULA’s supply chain
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (9/15): As part of an Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference on Tuesday, United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno said the company discovered Chinese ties to a supplier of software used in tooling to manufacture the company’s new generation Vulcan Centaur rocket. An early discovery prevented the loss of sensitive information Bruno told the conference in a recorded video response to Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of the U.S. Space Force and the national security community’s cyber security concerns.

Polar launches from Cape won’t affect future of Vandenberg (9/15): On August 30, SpaceX succeeded in launching an Argentine radar imaging satellite on a polar orbiting trajectory from Florida’s Space Coast, a first in more than a half century. However, in a meeting Tuesday of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, a representative from the U.S. Space Force said the military does not anticipate shifting long standing polar launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to Florida. SpaceX also does not plan to cease polar launches from its facilities at Vandenberg.

China launches 9 satellites into space from ocean platform (9/15): A Chinese Long March 11 rocket succeeded Tuesday in launching nine Earth observation satellites from an ocean launch platform. China is only the third country to perform a sea launch, following the U.S. and Russia.

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