Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 16th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Cosmonauts track down the source of the air leak onboard the ISS, but believe a better patch is needed to fully address the issue. European/Japanese space mission sweeps close to Venus. Two space objects manage near miss rather than feared collision.


Human Space Exploration

Air leak rate aboard Space Station drops after crew patches up fracture
TASS of Russia (10/16): The rate of the air leak from the International Space Station (ISS) dropped after the crew patched up the discovered fracture in the Zvezda module, but the air pressure inside the orbital outpost continues falling, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin reported to Russia’s Flight Control Center. The cosmonauts believe a more reliable patch may be needed. (Editor’s Note: TASS is an official news outlet of the Russian government.)

Oxygen supply just failed in part of the ISS, but everyone is safe so far
Agence France Presse via ScienceAlert (10/15): In a separate development, the Russian oxygen supply system onboard the International Space Station failed on Wednesday evening.  The oxygen generator on the American segment is continuing to operate normally and there is no danger to the crew. The Russian space agency Roscosmos reported that repair work would be carried out to fix the issue.


Space Science

BepiColombo spacecraft swings past Venus on long road to Mercury (10/15): Launched almost two years ago, the European Space Agency (ESA)/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) BepiColombo mission is to place two spacecraft in orbit around Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. In order to reach its destination, the spacecraft is using the gravitational forces of Venus to place it on the desired trajectory. Overnight Wednesday, the spacecraft carried out the first of two passes close to Venus and took the opportunity to observe the planet. A second encounter with Venus is scheduled for August 2021.

Mars was so close this week that you can see its surface from your backyard
Futurism (10/15): Tuesday night, the Earth and Mars experienced an unusually close approach, one that allowed even backyard amateur astronomers to observe and image key Red Planet surface features.



Commitment to space exploration should be on the ballot
Coalition Member in the News – Paragon Space Development Company (10/15): The issues making headlines in the upcoming presidential election range from health care and the coronavirus pandemic and the state of the economy to national security and unity. Ultimately, though, the nation’s future is linked to the exploration of space and its promise to help address other issues, writes Grant Anderson, President and CEO of Paragon Space Development Company.


Other News

FAA cuts the red tape for commercial rocket launches (and landings, too) (10/15): On Thursday, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation unveiled the Streamlined Launch and Re-entry Licensing Regulation-2 (SLR2). While focused on safety, the changes seek to provide the U.S. commercial space industry with greater access to space. “Our country is headed towards a record year in commercial space, and our goal in finalizing this new regulation is to keep it that way,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao told a news briefing. The announced changes are in response to President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-2 issued in 2018.

A rocket booster and a dead satellite avoided a collision Thursday, illustrating the ‘ticking time bomb’ of space debris
Washington Post (10/15): Concerns over a potential collision between a defunct Soviet satellite and a spent Chinese rocket stage eased as the two managed a close call rather than an overnight impact, California-based Leo Labs, a commercial tracking company, reported on Thursday. Still, the growing levels of orbital debris remain a concern to future low Earth orbit commercial activity, national security assets and the safety of the International Space Station (ISS).

HeroX helps NASA advance lunar exploration with a miniaturized payload prototype challenge (10/15): Working with NASA, crowdsourcer HeroX on Thursday announced a new competition to develop technologies supporting the future human exploration of the Moon. Fourteen teams emerged from the original competition announced in April. In addition to a cash prize, the winner could have an opportunity to launch very small science payloads to the Moon placed on a robotic rover about the size of a Roomba.

Fire burns rocket tower at Vandenberg AFB’s Space Launch Complex-2
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (10/15): Authorities report fire damage to the “Slick-2” launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, a launch site previously used by United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Delta II missions. Recently, the complex was transitioned for use by Firefly Aerospace and has been undergoing construction activities. 

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