Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 15th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA selects 14 companies to mature and demonstrate “tipping point” technologies to foster the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. Just around the corner: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx will attempt to collect a sample from asteroid Bennu for future return to Earth. The Federal Aviation Administration will unveil final regulations on commercial space launch and re-entry license requirements today.


Human Space Exploration

NASA tipping point selections include cryogenic fluid, lunar surface and landing tech
Coalition Members in the News – Astrobotic, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance (10/14): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Wednesday announced the selection of 14 U.S. companies to pursue “tipping point” technologies significant for the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The total award value exceeds $370 million and the projects could last up to five years. The research themes include managing cryogenic rocket propellants in space, and demonstrating new technologies for use on the lunar surface and for autonomous landing and hazard avoidance.

NASA makes a significant investment in on-orbit spacecraft refueling
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (10/14): The NASA Tipping Point awards announced on Wednesday appear to emphasize interest in enabling a means of refueling spacecraft in space. Four of the awards, totaling approximately $256 million, will go to companies to mature technologies for long-term cryogenic fluid management.

ESA awards contracts for moon and Mars exploration 
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
The European Space Agency (ESA) awarded contracts this week for its Moon and Mars exploration program, including for the NASA-led Gateway and for a mission to return Mars samples to Earth. One of the Gateway contracts is for the development of the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPIRIT), whose telecommunications element will be installed on Northrop Grumman’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost module.

How commercializing the International Space Station can help astronauts get to the Moon and Mars
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (10/14): Low Earth orbit activities aboard the International Space Station (ISS) play a key part in deep space human exploration. A future commercial platform can continue the legacy, as stated at an International Astronautical Conference (IAC) panel this week. Among the panelists was Mike Suffredini, a former NASA ISS program manager and now CEO of company Axiom Space, which plans to add at least one habitable module to the ISS as soon as 2021 to support a transition to commercially led research as the Station nears end of operations. Other panelists from Europe and Japan also see a future for commercial LEO growth as NASA transitions its human exploration focus to the Moon and Mars.


Space Science

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx about to land on asteroid Bennu: Here’s what will happen
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance
CNET (10/14): Next Tuesday, October 20, NASA will attempt something the agency has not done before. Launched in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx mission spacecraft will attempt to touchdown briefly on asteroid Bennu to collect a small sample of pebbles and soil for return to Earth. NASA will stream the action live beginning at 5 p.m. EDT ( The material may hold new clues to the role asteroids played in the delivery of water and organics, the building blocks for life, during the solar system’s planet forming era.


Other News

U.S. set to unveil streamlined commercial space regulations Thursday  
The Federal Aviation Administration will unveil final regulations on commercial space launch and re-entry license requirements. The performance-based regulation was first proposed in March 2019 and will apply a single set of licensing and safety rules for all vehicle operations.

Humans to Mars panel, October 20, 2020 virtual, 1 p.m, EDT
Coalition President and CEO, Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar in the News (10/14): Explore Mars Inc. has rescheduled its panel, “The Moon in 2024/Mars in 2033: Opportunities and Challenges,” which the organization was forced to postpone due to technical issues during the annual Human to Mars Summit in August. The panel includes Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations; and James Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Space debris trackers warn of “explosions in orbit”
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (10/13): Holger Krag, who leads the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Safety Program, expressed concern this week that low Earth orbit continues to harbor a growing debris environment. When the objects impact, each collision leads to even more debris, but perhaps the most alarming concern are explosions due to rocket fuel, batteries, and rocket bodies themselves. Despite efforts to track objects and guidelines intended to control the concern, a growing commercial space industry could add to the problem.

NASA selects first human-tended suborbital research payload (10/14): NASA announced Wednesday that it will launch a Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) payload on a Blue Origin suborbital mission. Planetary scientist Alan Stern, associate vice president of the institute, will accompany the test of a camera designed to work at low light levels and a suite of biomedical sensors. Stern is best known as the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which carried out the first close flyby of Pluto and is currently exploring the Kuiper Belt.

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