Space Stories: Deorbiting the ISS, Impounded Russian Rockets, and a Telescope on the Dark Side of the Moon

Image (Credit): View of Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). (NASA)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

Space News: “NASA Planning to Spend up to $1 Billion on Space Station Deorbit Module

NASA is projecting spending nearly $1 billion on a tug to deorbit the International Space Station at the end of the decade to provide redundancy for safely disposing of the station. NASA released additional details March 13 about its fiscal year 2024 budget proposal. An outline of the proposal, published by the White House March 9, requested $27.2 billion for the agency, a 7.1% increase from 2023 that roughly keeps pace with inflation.

Radio Free Europe: “Kazakhstan Impounds Property Of Russian Cosmodrome Operator In Baikonur

Kazakh authorities have impounded the property of Russia’s main operator of spacecraft launching sites in Baikonur (Baiqonyr) in the Central Asian nation’s southern region of Qyzylorda…According to the media outlet, the decision was made due to the Russian state company’s debt of 13.5 billion tenges ($29.7 million) to the Baiterek Kazakh-Russian joint venture for work related to estimating ecological damage caused by Souyz-5 rockets.

SciTechDaily: “NASA, DOE Telescope on Far Side of the Moon Will Reveal the Dark Ages of the Universe

NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) are working together to develop a science instrument that will survive the harsh and unforgiving environment of the lunar surface at night on the far side of the Moon to attempt first-of-its-kind measurements of the Dark Ages of the Universe. The instrument, named the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment – Night (LuSEE-Night), is a collaboration between DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, the DOE Office of Science, UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Space Quote: NASA’s Proposed Budget for FY 2024

“President Biden’s budget will help us explore new cosmic shores, continue to make strides in traveling to and working in space and on the Moon, increase the speed and safety of air travel with cutting-edge technologies, and help protect our planet and improve lives here on Earth.”

Statement by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson regarding the release of the The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2024. Under this budget, NASA proposes to:

  • Build on the successful Artemis I mission and pave the way for a long-term presence at the Moon. 
  • Further new scientific discovery in our solar system and beyond. 
  • Support a future in low-Earth orbit.
  • Advance U.S. leadership in technology innovation in aviation and space. 
  • Engage diverse learners in NASA’s mission to create our nation’s next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers – the Artemis Generation. 

Space Quote: UAE Celebrates its Role in ISS Mission

Image (Credit): The SpaceX Dragon with the Crew-6 team docking with the ISS. (NASA)

I join the nation in congratulating Sultan al-Neyadi as he begins his pioneering mission aboard the International Space Station. His inspiring achievement is a source of great pride to the UAE and another milestone in the journey of our nation and the ambitions of our people.

Statement by United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan after the launch of the Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which included UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi. All four members of the Crew-6 mission arrived safely at the ISS earlier today.

Pic of the Week: Crew-6 Mission to the ISS

Image (Credit): A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Dragon spacecraft on top. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

This week’s image shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule awaiting the launch of the Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station. The rocket launched at 12:34 a.m. EST today from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can read more about the successful launch here.

Space Mission: IBEX is Not Communicating with NASA

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of NASA’s IBEX spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is having some problems. On February 18, the IBEX flight computer reset itself and placed the spacecraft into contingency mode. This is not good for it ongoing mission to map the boundary of our solar system. The spacecraft’s system should do a full reset again in a few days, so NASA may get a break and be able to communicate with IBEX again shortly.

The IBEX spacecraft was launched back in October 2018 as the first spacecraft specifically designed to collect data across the entire sky about the heliosphere and its boundary. The mission has already been very instructive, as NASA explains:

Scientists have used this [IBEX] data to make the first maps of our heliosphere boundary. Our heliosphere boundary does not emit light that we can detect, which means it would be impossible to image using conventional telescopes. Instead of collecting light, like other telescopes do, IBEX collects particles coming from the boundary so that we can learn about the processes occurring there. The boundary of the Solar System protects us from harmful cosmic rays. Without it, four times more cosmic rays would enter our Solar System and potentially damage our ozone layer and DNA. It is important to study this region to know how it works.

Image (Credit): Artist’s rending of our solar system’s heliosphere. (NASA/IBEX/Adler Planetarium)

Update: As of March 2, the IBEX spacecraft is fully functional again. You can read more about it here.