Inside Space - November 8th, 2019

Inside Space (Nov 8th, 2019)

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1. Boeing said that one of the three parachutes of the Starliner failed to deploy during a pad abort test on Monday due to a misplaced pin. Technicians failed to notice that the pin had come off because it is enclosed in a "protective sheath" intended to limit abrasion said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Commercial Crew at Boeing. "In this particular case that pin wasn’t through the loop, but it wasn’t discovered in initial visual inspections because of that protective sheath," Mulholland said. Ensuring that the pins are properly installed would only require "fairly easy steps." Despite the parachute failure, Boeing said that Monday's test was a success because the key elements of the abort system, including the thrusters and separation of the service module and heat shield, worked as expected. The drill also verified the Starliner's ability to safely land with two parachutes, something that had already been tested. Mullholland said that following Monday's exercise, the company is on track for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station on Dec. 17. – SPACE NEWS

2. According to a White House letter, each launch of the Space Launch System would cost taxpayers $2 billion. Ars Technica says that NASA officials have never before given an estimate of how much an SLS launch would cost, while noting that the launch of a Falcon Heavy – which has two thirds the lifting power of the SLS, but has already been launched successfully three times – costs $150 million. A NASA spokesperson said the agency is negotiating a long-term contract with Boeing that would "bring down the cost." The White House estimate does not include the $2 billion per year that Congress has provided for the development of the SLS since 2011. – ARS TECHNICA

3. Follow Friday: Frank White

Frank White is the author of "The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution," a seminal 1987 book that explores how the consciousness of a person expands when they look at planet Earth from space. 

The overview effect refers to "the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere."

White relies on Twitter and his website to help communicate this "potentially revolutionary experience" for the betterment of humanity. In recent days, he has retweeted this NASA video on the Overview Effect and this story about a 3D virtual reality experience that simulates a spaceflight.

In his latest book, "The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect," which was published in March, White argues that human spaceflight will help all of us become "Citizens of the Universe."

This video based on White's work has had nearly 8 million plays on Vimeo.

4. SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force are testing potential military applications of the Starlink satellite internet constellation. The collaboration is part of a program called Global Lightning, under which SpaceX was awarded a $29-million contract in December 2018. The partners want to use Starlink to provide high-speed, low latency connectivity to military aircraft. Last month, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink had successfully demonstrated that it can transfer 610 megabits per second to a military aircraft. Now the AF plans to install Starlink terminals and test connectivity with an AC-130 gunship and a KC-135 tanker aircraft. Shotwell has emphasized that despite this collaboration with the AF, Starlink will primarily be a commercial enterprise whose main goal will be to provide connectivity to the public and the private sector. – TESLARATI

5. OneWeb has decided to delay a satellite launch from December 2019 to January 2020 to allow for additional tests. OneWeb plans to launch an internet constellation of 650 satellites but envisions deploying around 2,000 sats in the future. After months of delays, OneWeb launched the first six satellites in February. The company wants to continue deploying the sats with monthly rocket launches from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The first of those launches were scheduled for December 19 but the company says that it would now take place in mid-to-late January. "We are taking the utmost care to prepare for launch and therefore are taking a few extra weeks to conduct additional tests on the satellites which will be shipped in December for launch," OneWeb said in a statement. – SPACE NEWS

6. NASA plans to launch an orbiter to search for water ice on the moon. NASA scientists will use the data collected by the Lunar IceCube mission to understand how water is distributed on the lunar surface, its origins and how we can use it. "This is not only important for science, but it could also be important for reducing the cost of human missions over the long-term," said NASA's exploration research and development manager, Mark Lupisella. The orbiter will feature a novel ion propulsion thruster that will only need small amounts of fuel to propel the 31-pound spacecraft. The Lunar IceCube will be part of the Artemis 1 mission, which is slated for launch in 2020. – NASA

7. NASA has opened an Apollo moon rock sample that has been sealed for over 40 years. The Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis initiative (ANGSA) will use technology that was not available when the Apollo 17 samples were collected to examine it. The lunar regolith samples will be studied using techniques like non-destructive 3D imaging, mass spectrometry, and ultra-high resolution microtomy. One of the samples was opened this week and the second one will be unsealed in January. "Opening these samples now will enable new scientific discoveries about the Moon and will allow a new generation of scientists to refine their techniques to better study future samples returned by Artemis astronauts," said Francis McCubbin, NASA's astromaterials curator at the Johnson Space Center. – CBS

8. Kepler has successfully provided high-speed internet connectivity to the Arctic. The company's nanosatellites successfully transmitted data at a speed of 100Mbps to a German icebreaker involved in a research expedition studying how climate change is impacting the Arctic. This is the first time that a satellite company has provided high-bandwidth connectivity to the central Arctic, Kepler said. The vessel is relying on Kepler's polar-orbit sats to transmit large amounts of data back and forth to research stations onshore, which suggests that this is not just a technology demonstration. – TECHCRUNCH

9. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) wants to send a spacecraft to Venus. The orbiter would rely on 16 scientific instruments to create a map of the planet's surface. "The major objective is to map the Venusian surface and subsurface," ISRO scientist Nigar Shaji told a group of Venus experts during a meeting in Colorado. The orbiter would also be able to study the planet's atmosphere. If the Indian government approves the mission, the spacecraft could launch in June 2023 on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, Shaji said. – SPACE

10. Image of the Day: Here is a close-up of the solar arrays that provide power to the International Space Station. "The intricate, mesmerizing pattern of the @Space_Station solar arrays - one of my tasks today was a photo survey of these beauties," tweeted NASA astronaut Jessica Meir

Written and curated by Eduardo Garcia in New York. Eduardo is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School M.A. Science program and writes regularly for the New York Times Climate Fwd: newsletter. In one of his previous lives, Eduardo worked as a Reuters correspondent in Latin America for nearly a decade. 

Edited by Inside Dev and Inside Deals Editor Sheena Vasani, a freelance journalist based in California.

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