Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 4th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Administrator Bill Nelson speaks Friday with Dmitry Rogozin, his Russian counterpart, on future cooperation in space. House bill would designate space as critical infrastructure.


Human Space Exploration

Nelson, Rogozin to talk on Friday (6/3): NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Dimitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, will speak today. The discussion will likely include the future of U.S.-Russia continuing cooperation in the International Space Station (ISS). Nelson said Wednesday he also expects space to be on the agenda of the Biden-Putin summit later this month. Recently, Russia has indicated plans to assemble its own space station and to join with China in leading an international effort to establish a research base at the south pole of the Moon.


Space Science

NASA’s InSight Mars lander just gave itself a dust bath
Slash Gear (6/3): NASA’s InSight lander touched down on Mars in 2018 equipped to carry out the first studies of the planet’s crust, mantle, and core at Elysium Planitia. Despite difficulties burying a heat probe, InSight has managed to detect marsquakes and make other discoveries. The most recent difficulty faced by the lander is buildup of dust on its power-generating solar arrays. Technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) came up with a plan to shed the dust that, though counterintuitive, seems to be working. InSight used the scoop on the end of its robotic arm to pick up Martian dust, and then trickle it next to, though not on, the solar panels. The idea is to bounce grains which the Mars wind would then whip across the surface of the panels, in the process sweeping away smaller grains that were impairing their efficiency. 



Damage to Canadarm2 on ISS once again highlights space debris problem (6/3): A piece of orbital debris recently hit Canadarm2, the robotic arm on the International Space Station (ISS) that helps with maintenance tasks and “catches” visiting spacecraft. Journalist Anusuya Datta says this is a “significant and worrying development which comes on the back of three emergency maneuvers by the ISS last year…to avoid potential collision with unidentified objects,” and that the event again opens up the debate around what we are doing about orbital debris.


Other News

House bill would designate space as critical infrastructure (6/4): The Space Infrastructure Act to be introduced under bipartisan sponsorship on Friday calls for space systems to be designated as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. The bill will be introduced by Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Ken Calvert (R-CA) and would add space systems to the 16 sectors currently classified as critical infrastructure. The legislation defines space infrastructure as spacecraft and launch vehicles, space-related terrestrial systems and launch infrastructure, related production facilities and information technology systems.

Launch executives see booming demand despite gloomy forecasts
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (6/2): The current interest and demand in obtaining launch services appears to be surging, according to industry executives who spoke at the MilSat Symposium on Wednesday. At the event, however, ULA’s Mark Peller said his company sees a healthy demand over the next five-to-seven years across commercial, civil, and national security launch but expressed skepticism about whether all the planned mega constellations will become operational and questioned the ability of small launchers to compete with big rocket rideshares.

China launches Fengyun-4B weather satellite to orbit (6/3): China’s Fungyun-4B weather satellite was launched successfully aboard a Long March 3B rocket about mid-day Thursday, U.S. time.



Night sky, June 2021: What you can see this month [maps] (5/31): As June unfolds, Venus will appear bright in the sky after sunset, Jupiter and Saturn take the stage in the darkened sky before sunrise. Look for Mars, a reddish dab, to appear after sunset above a crescent Moon in the constellation Cancer. June 10 is to feature an annual solar eclipse, but the event will not be visible from the U.S. Check‘s calendar of observing events for additional details. Advice for casual observers: Viewing away from bright city lights under a clear sky helps as can binoculars.

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