Today’s Deep Space Extra for Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2nd, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA and the European Space Agency demonstrate plans to cooperate in the human exploration of deep space with development of the Orion crew capsule and its European Service Module. Recently named NASA Space Launch System program manager John Honeycutt is confident of a late 2018 inaugural launch. Representatives from the White House and U.S. commercial space startups praise new commercial space legislation offering U.S. citizens rights to materials mined from asteroids. The European Space Agency delays by a day the launch of the LISA pathfinder mission. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image team searches imagery for signs of the historic Soviet Luna 9 moon lander. Orbital ATK is prepared to lead the way as two U.S. companies prepare to resume NASA contracted cargo missions to the International Space Station. Mission managers approve Orbital ATK plans to launch NASA’s next contracted re-supply mission to the International Space Station on Thursday at 5:55 p.m., EST. SpaceX signals its intent to land a future Falcon 9 first stage on the ground in Florida. Blue Origin’s successful Nov. 23 vertical takeoff and landing of the New Shepard suborbital rocket signals a coming new era in space, according to an editorial.

Human Deep Space Exploration

NASA wants to reach Mars with a little help from its friends
Bloomberg Business (12/1): Europe’s contribution to NASA’s Orion program, the European Service Module, is a model for international cooperation in the human exploration of space, according to the report. Representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency, the U.S. and European aerospace contractors Lockheed Martin and Airbus gathered Monday in northern Ohio to showcase the ESM, which will provide power and propulsion to Orion astronauts. An ESM structural test article will undergo weeks of ground testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station.

‘Heart’ of NASA’s Orion spacecraft to undergo stress tests (12/2): Ground tests of the European Space Agency’s contribution to NASA’s Orion crew exploration capsule, the European Service Module, will undergo ground tests at Plum Brook Station facilities in Sandusky, Ohio. The tests will simulate launch and staging forces as well as the deployment of solar arrays and other aspects of the space environment. An uncrewed Orion capsule, European Service Module and Space Launch System exploration rocket are to be joined for an inaugural test fight in late 2018.

Meet the man in charge of building the linchpin for NASA’s much-hyped (and mostly unfunded) journey to Mars
Space News (12/1): He’s John Honeycutt, who believes NASA and its contractor team, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital ATK, will meet a late 2018 date for the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System exploration rocket, the Orion crew capsule and a crucial service module contribution from Europe that will enable future human deep space exploration. Honeycutt, who was recently named NASA’s SLS manager, believes the contractor team will overcome an issue with the Vertical Assembly Center for manufacturing the rocket at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

White House, commercial space companies praise new space law (12/2): Representatives from three entrepreneurial space companies joined a ranking White House official in technology policy on Monday to praise new commercial space legislation signed into law by President Obama on Nov. 25. Provisions of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, H.R. 2262, seek to assign U.S. citizens rights to materials mined from asteroids and other planetary bodies without asserting a territorial ownership claim. Representatives from Planetary Resources, Moon Express and Bigelow Aerospace joined a Google Hangout to discuss the implications.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

LISA Pathfinder launch grounded to analyze Vega upper stage (12/1): At their French Guiana launch site, European Space Agency managers agree to hold off for at least a day to re-assess possible thermal concerns with the upper stage of the Vega rocket assigned to launch the LISA pathfinder spacecraft, a gravity probe. The lift off was set for early Wednesday local time.

Long-lost lander: Researchers hunting for Soviet Moon probe Luna 9 (11/30): On Feb. 3, 1966, the former Soviet Union’s Luna 9 probe achieved the first soft landing of a spacecraft on a planetary body, the Moon. Currently, scientists associated with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are searching their imagery for what’s left of the 220 pound lander.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Orbital and SpaceX to fly again for first time after rockets exploded
The Washington Post (12/1): NASA’s commercial re-supply launch service providers for the six person International Space Station are preparing to resume missions after respective setbacks. Orbital ATK will lead the way with plans to launch Thursday. The mission will feature a larger version of the Cygnus cargo capsule that was destroyed on Oct. 28, 2014 moments after lifting off from Wallops Island, Va. This time, weather permitting, Orbital will lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with more than 7,700 pounds of supplies for the Space Station. SpaceX, which experienced a launch loss on June 28, is slated to resume launchings of its Falcon 9 later this month with communications satellites followed by a re-supply mission to the Space Station in January.

Readiness confirmed for Thursday’s Atlas 5 cargo launch to Space Station (12/1): Mission managers approved plans to launch an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on Thursday. The NASA contracted resupply mission is to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during a 30 minute launch window that opens at 5:55 p.m., EST. Forecasters offered a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions.

SpaceX wants to land next booster at Cape Canaveral
Florida Today (12/1): SpaceX envisions another attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket after its next commercial space mission, now planned for December. SpaceX is working to recover from the June 28 launch explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., as it began a cargo delivery mission to the six person International Space Station. The company’s previous attempts to land a Falcon 9 first stage on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off Jacksonville, Fla., failed. This time, SpaceX would like to settle the first stage of its Falcon 9 on land, according to the report.


World-Herald editorial: New era in space
Omaha World Herald, of Nebraska: Blue Origin is recognized for its successful vertical launch and landing of the New Shepard suborbital rocket on Nov. 23, a milestone in efforts to develop reusable rockets.

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