Today’s Deep Space Extra for Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January 20th, 2016

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA and its Orion/Space Launch System contractor team pick up the development, testing pace for Exploration Mission-1 hardware. Stephen Hawking: Humanity’s survival depends on deep space travel.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Engineers mark completion of Orion’s pressure vessel
Space Daily (1/20): Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans finished welding the pressure vessel for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, designated for launch aboard the unpiloted Exploration Mission-1 test flight in late 2018. The critical welding activities for seven major pieces of the aluminum pressure vessel were completed on Jan. 13.

NASA facilities, teams ramp up SLS flight production for 2018 maiden flight (1/19): Multiple NASA and contractor facilities are ramping up production and testing activities in anticipation of Exploration Mission-1, the space agency’s planned late 2018 first unpiloted test flight of the Space Launch System exploration rocket with the Orion crew capsule. EM-1 will take the Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth for a splashdown and parachute recovery.

Space Science

Hawking: Earth (likely) doomed, humanity needn’t be (1/19): Though remote, a space disaster will force humanity off the Earth, according to physicist Stephen Hawking. However, Earthlings are at least a century away from the capabilities to escape, notes Hawking in a BBC Reith Lecture scheduled for a Jan. 26 release.

On alien planets, nitrogen may be a sign of habitability (1/19): Nitrogen, not just oxygen, could be a key to identifying life on planets beyond the solar system, suggest astrophysicists.

On anniversary of launch, New Horizons returns hi-res images of Pluto’s haze, possible cryovolcano
Spaceflight Insider (1/19): Pluto’s ultra-blue haze reveals a possible cyrovolcano in new images from NASA’s New Horizons mission spacecraft. The probe, now making its way deeper into the Kuiper Belt, was launched 10 years ago Tuesday.

Light from ancient galaxies illuminates 40-year mystery of early universe (1/19): Light from the universe’s earliest galaxies are helping to illuminate the clouds of interstellar gas that transitioned into new star systems.

NASA captures cascading magnetic arches on the sun
Orlando Sentinel (1/19): NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory, launched in 2010, has captured imagery of a solar eruption followed by a glowing tidal wave on the surface of the sun.

Low Earth Orbit

PSLV lofts satellite for India’s indigenous navigation system (1/20): India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle placed the fifth spacecraft of the country’s regional satellite navigation system in orbit early Wednesday, local time. Two more of the spacecraft are to be launched by the end of March to complete the network. The U.S. and Russia operate global satellite navigation systems. India is joining China, the European Union and Japan in the development and operation of regional systems.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

New player Masten eyes Cape for launches, research
Orlando Sentinel (1/20): Based in Mojave, Calif., Masten Space Systems plans to open a business office in Cape Canaveral, Fla., joining an already growing community of launch services providers. Masten is involved in the development of a reusable space plane for the Department of Defense.


County approves $14.5M deal for space exploration firm World View
Arizona Daily Star (1/19): World View, the Arizona-based enterprise that plans to offer research as well as luxury passenger high altitude balloon flights, will base its launch and flight operations at a Tucson spaceport, based on agreements reached Tuesday with state, county and local elected officials. New jobs are expected to total 400. Passenger flights are to begin in 2017.

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