Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 26th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) “Green Run” test campaign moving ahead to conclude in November. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx appears to have gathered a generous, maybe too generous, sample of material from the surface of Bennu during its successful touch and go operation last week. 


Human Space Exploration

SLS Core Stage nearing home stretch for Green Run tanking test
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (10/23): Transported to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi early in the year, the core stage for the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is closing in on the final chapter of a 2020 “Green Run.” Slated for early November is the Wet Dress Rehearsal, the seventh and second to last step in the critical ground testing series. The Green Run test campaign will conclude with a full duration, eight-minute ground test firing of the core stage’s four RS-25 rocket engines in mid-November. The core then moves to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for Artemis I preparations.

Axiom Space finalizing first commercial ISS mission
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (10/23): Axiom Space is looking to late 2021 for a commercial spaceflight first, a ten-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). “We’re cautiously optimistic that, by the end of October, we will have everything in place to move forward for a launch in the fourth quarter of 2021,” Mike Suffredini, Axiom president and CEO, said during an October 13 International Astronautical Conference (IAC) panel. Retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will lead the ISS visit, which will include three other commercial astronauts. Meanwhile, Axiom is working on the first of several commercial modules to be docked to the ISS starting in 2024.

U.S. astronaut votes early from Space Station (10/23): Keeping a pre-launch pledge, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins voted absentee from the International Space Station (ISS) last Thursday. Now the only American citizen in space, Rubins was able to vote absentee thanks to a procedure put in place in 1997. Rubins launched October 14 with two Russian colleagues from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a six-month mission.


Space Science

NASA says it collected a large sample from the asteroid Bennu. Maybe too large
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (10/23): OSIRIS-REx may have gathered so much material in its October 20 landing on asteroid Bennu that the spacecraft’s sampling head is open, causing samples to escape. NASA now plans to secure the material in a canister inside the spacecraft, where they will be sealed until OSIRIS-REx delivers the samples back to Earth in September 2023.

Artificial intelligence helps classify new craters on Mars (10/25): Working with imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which was launched in 2005 and has been orbiting the Red Planet since March 2006, an artificial intelligence algorithm developed by NASA has identified a crater cluster created on Mars by a meteor impact sometime between March 2010 and May 2012. More than 112,000 images from the Mars orbiter were processed with the algorithm to spot the cluster.

Suddenly, a dark feature on Mars (10/25): Romanian observer Maximilian Teodorescu has spotted a dark smudge about 600 kilometers (373 miles) long for the first time on Mars in the equatorial Tharsis volcanic plateau. It may be an ice cloud shadow, but it is drawing the interest of other observers.

Other News

FY21 budget outlook: NASA
American Institute of Physics (10/20): NASA’s efforts to achieve a return to the surface of the Moon with humans in 2024 require a lunar Human Landing System (HLS), but Congress seems at odds with returning by that year. There is more at stake, including initiatives on the astrophysics, Earth and planetary science fronts. The fiscal year began October 1 for federal agencies without a budget and spending moved ahead under a Continuing Resolution (CR) at 2020 level funding.

Space Force establishes the first of three field commands
Military Times (10/22): The U.S. Space Force has established the first of three commands, the Space Operations Command (SpOC) at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Still to come are the Space Systems Command and the Space Training and Readiness Command.

Vostochny spaceport scandals continues: CEO of company operating new Far Eastern Russian cosmodrome arrested on corruption charges
Russia Today (10/24): Construction of Russia’s state of the art Vostochny spaceport in the country’s far east is confronted by new scandal. The head of the state entity operating the cosmodrome has been placed in pre-trial detention. The alleged scheme reportedly cost the state over $6.5 million. Editor’s note: Russian Government-owned news outlet


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of October 25-31, 2020
Coalition Member – Boeing and President and CEO Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar in the News (10/25): The week offers multiple virtual conferences, webinars and advisory committee meetings. The Coalition’s Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar joins the AIAA’s Dan Dunbacher, the AIA’s Mike French, the CSF’s Eric Stallmer and Spacepolicyonline’s Marcia Smith for the AIAA-sponsored “Spacepolicy: The Road Ahead” on Monday at 11 a.m., EDT. NASA’s Artemis initiative is the focus of the annual AAS Von Braun symposium, which runs Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday, NASA begins a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of a continuous human occupation of the International Space Station (ISS), which began on November 2, 2000.

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