Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 2nd, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA and its commercial crew partners are preparing for a busy few weeks of ISS operations, as China nears the start of assembly for its Tiangong space station.


Human Space Exploration

Crew-2 on schedule for April launch while next Starliner flight delayed
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (3/2): It is unlikely that the Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT) 2 mission, previously scheduled for April 2, will be ready to launch early next month. A major factor in the delay is the power outages in the Houston area, which paused software testing for the spacecraft. NASA and Boeing are trying to figure out availability for OFT-2, as it is a busy time at the International Space Station (ISS) with the upcoming SpaceX Crew-2 and Soyuz missions. Meanwhile, NASA indicated it doesn’t see major challenges to launching SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission in late April, even after the shutdown of a Merlin engine on a February 15 Falcon 9 launch that prevented the booster from landing. 

Russian cosmonauts to spend five days to seal fracture aboard orbital outpost
TASS of Russia (3/1): Cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are at work this week attempting to seal a fracture believed responsible for a small but long-lasting loss of air pressure in the Russian segment Zvezda service module. (Editor’s note: TASS is a Russian government-owned news source).

China preparing to build Tiangong station in 2021, complete by 2022 (3/1): China plans to begin the assembly of its Tiangong space station in April. The assembly of the Mir-like orbiting lab is planned to take 11 launches and be complete in 2022.


Space Science

James Webb Space Telescope hit several big milestones in February
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (3/1): February marked significant progress toward the launch of
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) this year. The observatory completed is final functional performance tests, completing two important milestones that confirmed Webb’s internal electronics are functioning as intended, and that the spacecraft and its four scientific instruments can send and receive data properly through the same network they will use in space.

Geomagnetic storm
Spaceweather,com (3/2): The most intense storm of the current solar cycle is underway, not unusual for March, which is historically the most geomagnetically active month of the year.



Waiting is the hardest part
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
The Space Review (3/1): Though themed with enthusiasm, almost all space-related initiatives must contend with setbacks, whether government, private sector, large or small. The abundance of the challenge was quite apparent last week with developments affecting NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo emerging within the space of a few days.


Other News

Rocket Lab CEO says SPAC deal is ‘a supercharger’ for growth and adds ability to launch astronauts
CNBC (3/1): Rocket Lab, which has been focused on the development of small satellite launch services and production of small satellites, announced on Monday that it will merge with Vector Acquisition Co. to pursue the development of a large new rocket. The envisioned Neutron rocket will be capable of launching up to 18,000 pounds to low Earth orbit and will feature a reusable first stage. Rated for human spaceflight, Neutron is set to fly in 2024. The merger with Vector Acquisition will raise Rocket Lab’s enterprise value above $4 billion.

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