ExoMars 2020 Aerodynamic Shield Flight Sample Delivered to ESA

Mars 2020 shield (Credit: Roscosmos)

CANNES (Roscosmos PR) — ExoMars-2020 aerodynamic shield flight sample delivered from NPO Lavochkin (part of Roscosmos) to Thales Alenia Space (Cannes, France).

The TASinF specialists unpacked the shield, cleaned and placed it in the clean area ISO7, performed all the necessary equipment checks. At the moment, preparatory works to install the aerodynamic shield are underway to conduct further joint tests as part of the spacecraft.

ExoMars-2020 mission is the second stage of Roscosmos largest international project together with the European Space Agency to explore Mars surface and subsurface in the area next to the landing site, geological research and searching for traces of possible life existence on the planet. The spacecraft is to open a new stage in space exploration for the world scientific community.

NPO Lavochkin acts as the general contractor and works coordinator from the Russian side, as well as designer and manufacturer of the descent module with the landing platform. The mission is scheduled for launch in the window between July 26 – August 13, 2020.

Mixed Reaction to House’s NASA Authorization Bill

There have been sharply differing reaction from industry and advocacy groups to the House draft of a NASA authorization act that largely rejects the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish a permanent presence there. Instead, a moon landing would be used as an interim step to sending astronauts to Mars. Commercial participation in these missions would be limited.

[See House NASA Authorization Bill Focuses on Sending Astronauts to Mars; Moon Seen as Interim Step and NASA Authorization Bill Introduced in House for details.]

Below are statements by the Aerospace Industries Association, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and National Space Society.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has also weighed in here.

(more…)

Bridenstine: Authorization Bill Constrains Lunar Exploration, Commercial Participation

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

In a blog post reproduced below, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine raises a number of objections to a draft authorization bill released by a House subcommittee. [See House NASA Authorization Bill Focuses on Sending Astronauts to Mars; Moon Seen as Interim Step and NASA Authorization Bill Introduced in House for details.]

by Jim Bridenstine
NASA Administrator

I would like to thank the Committee for producing a comprehensive NASA authorization bill. I am particularly encouraged that the bill is proceeding on a bipartisan basis, reflecting a consensus on a Moon to Mars approach. Maintaining a bipartisan, consensus approach is critical to constancy of purpose and supporting a long-term national commitment to the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The bill envisions a destination of Mars while supporting missions to the Moon as the most effective strategy to achieve that critical, shared goal. NASA would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee in a bipartisan way, as we did with the Senate Commerce Committee, on some modifications.

(more…)

Collins Aerospace Signs $320 Million Contract to Provide Critical Subsystems for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Orion and European Service Module orbiting the Moon. (Credit NASA/ESA/ATG Medialab)

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (Collins Aerospace PR) – Collins Aerospace Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to provide critical subsystems to support production of NASA’s Orion spacecraft fleet for Artemis missions III through VIII.

Valued at $320 million, the systems being provided by Collins Aerospace will play an important role in enabling NASA’s goal of boots on the Moon by 2024, as well as establishing a sustained presence on and around the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars.

(more…)

ESA Opens Oxygen Plant – Making Air Out of Moondust

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse and Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow preparing to make oxygen and metal out of simulated moondust inside ESA’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory. (Credit: ESA–A. Conigili)

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

(more…)

Could Future Homes on the Moon and Mars Be Made of Fungi?

A researcher holding a petri dish containing mycelia – the underground threads that make up the main part of a fungus – growing in simulated martian soil, also known as martian regolith. (Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Lynn Rothschild)

by Frank Tavares
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — Science fiction often imagines our future on Mars and other planets as run by machines, with metallic cities and flying cars rising above dunes of red sand. But the reality may be even stranger – and “greener.” Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.

(more…)

NASA Hiring Director of Mars Sample Return Program

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to record this eastward horizon view on the 2,407th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Oct. 31, 2010). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

NASA is advertising for a director for its Mars Sample Return (MSR) program. The position, located at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, would pay $182,424 to $188,066 per year.

“The incumbent serves as the Director of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Program within the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), reporting to the SMD Associate Administrator (AA),” the job posting states. “The incumbent is responsible for implementation of all MSR program activities, beginning with mission formulation and continuing through design, development, launch, and mission operations. The incumbent also assesses and evaluates the total flight program design, development, and operational activities.”

Check out the listing here.

Mars 2020 Rover Closer to Getting Name

An engineer works on attaching NASA’s Mars Helicopter to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover – which has been flipped over for that purpose – on Aug. 27, 2019, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is one step closer to having its own name after 155 students across the U.S. were chosen as semifinalists in the “Name the Rover” essay contest. Just one will be selected to win the grand prize — the exciting honor of naming the rover and an invitation to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

(more…)

Report: China Could Follow South China Sea Strategy in Seeking Space Resources

Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization (Credits: Joel Sercel)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is seeking to shape the governance of space activities. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s actions in asserting sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea could serve as a model by which that nation would claim extraterrestrial resources and consolidate its control over key space assets, a new report to the U.S. Congress warned.

“Contrary to international norms governing the exploration and commercial exploitation of space, statements from senior Chinese officials signal Beijing’s belief in its right to claim use of space-based resources in the absence of a clear legal framework specifically regulating mining in space,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 report.

(more…)

DLR Phantoms Undergo Fit Check in NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Orion capsule for Artemis I mission. (Credit: NASA)
  • MARE is an experiment to measure radiation exposure on the female body during NASA’s Artemis I mission.
  • The phantoms Helga and Zohar are DLR measurement bodies and will be flying to the Moon and back on the first, uncrewed flight of the Orion spacecraft.
  • They will acquire gender-specific measurement data on space radiation beyond the orbit of the ISS for the first time.
  • They are also testing the effectiveness of a newly developed radiation protection vest (AstroRad).
  • Focus: Space, human spaceflight, aerospace medicine, radiation biology

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The intensity of space radiation is much greater outside Earth’s protective magnetic field. This causes problems for the human body and represents a challenge for future crewed space missions to the Moon and Mars.

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is conducting research to determine the radiation risk for crewed spaceflight. One of the projects that the researchers are carrying out together with NASA, the Israeli Space Agency ISA and the companies Lockheed Martin and StemRad is the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE).

(more…)

Media Meet NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover and Builders

During their only opportunity to see NASA’s next Mars rover from inside JPL’s clean room prior to its shipment to Cape Canaveral, members of the media interview the builders of the Mars 2020 mission. The image was taken inside the clean room on Dec. 27, 2019. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Members of the media walked the clean-room floor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Dec. 27 to glimpse the agency’s Mars 2020 rover and speak with experts working on the mission. It was the media’s only opportunity to see the rover from inside the clean room prior to its shipment to Cape Canaveral in February.

(more…)

China’s Ambitious Plans to Dominate Cislunar Space

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s plans to achieve a commanding position in cislunar space. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is determined to establish a commanding position in cislunar space, seeing it as a strategic location from which to dominate the final frontier.

(more…)

ESA Reports Promising Progress for ExoMars Parachutes

A series of clips from different angles and at different speeds showing parachute extraction tests using a NASA/JPL test rig powered by compressed air.  The lid of the parachute assembly is pulled along a suspended cable at high speed while the end of the assembly is fixed to a wall. When the release mechanism is activated, the parachute bag is pulled away from the parachute at the target speed, mimicking the extraction as it will be on Mars. At the highest speeds, the tests enable the extraction to take place at more than 200 km/h.

PARIS (ESA PR) — A series of ground-based tests designed to check the extraction of the ExoMars 2020 mission’s parachutes from their bags have started successfully with promising results to keep the mission on track for next year’s launch.

Landing on Mars is a high-risk endeavour with no room for error. In just six minutes, a descent module with its precious cargo cocooned inside has to slow from around 21 000 km/h at the top of the planet’s atmosphere, to a soft landing at the surface controlled by the lander’s propulsion system.

(more…)

Rocket Lab Opens Second Launch Complex on Wallops Island

Rocket Lab’s launch complex on Wallops Island. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ten months after the first pilings were driven in, Rocket Lab declared its new launch complex on Wallops Island, Va., open and ready to serve the U.S. military’s need for rapid response launches with the company’s Electron booster.

“We’re proud to call Wallops Island in Virginia our home. We’re very proud to deliver a new launch capability to the United States. We’re very proud to support U.S. missions with a U.S. launch vehicle on U.S. soil,” CEO Peter Beck said during a press conference.

(more…)