NIAC Phase I Award: Pluto Hop, Skip & Jump

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump mission. (Credit: Benjamin Goldman)

Pluto Hop, Skip, and Jump

Benjamin Goldman
Global Aerospace Corporation
Irwindale, Calif.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

Imagine a craft that could enter Pluto’s atmosphere at 14 km/s and deliver a 200 kg lander to the surface using aerodynamic drag and just a few kg of propellant.

Pluto’s surface pressure is just 10 millionths of Earth’s, but its atmosphere is about 7 times higher than Earth’s and its volume is about 350 times the volume of Pluto itself. Over a several hundred kilometer entry distance, this ultra-low ballistic coefficient craft can dissipate over 99.999% of its initial kinetic energy, resulting in a terminal velocity comparable to or less than past planetary landers or rovers.

With this architecture, the total propellant requirement for landing on Pluto is less than 3.5 kg! After making science measurements at its initial landing site, the lander switches to “hopper” mode, taking advantage of the low gravitational acceleration (0.063 gee) and a modest propellant store to literally hop, skip, and jump around the surface, sometimes kilometers at a time, investigating features of interest.

The proposed concept would enable in-situ surface science at Pluto with low overall mass, a reasonable cost, and in a timeframe of about 10-15 years.

Full List of 2017 NIAC Awards

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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for Six Small Business Awards

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)

Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.

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Draper Readies Dream Chaser for International Space Station

Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Draper Laboratory PR) – Flight software developed by Draper is helping to bring routine commercial space flight one step closer to reality. The software will be on Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser® spacecraft for resupplying the International Space Station (ISS). When the un-crewed spacecraft launches to the ISS, its mission will be to deliver six tons of food, supplies and fuel to the orbiting laboratory.

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Trump’s Call to Space Station Becomes All About Trump


The nominal purpose of President Donald Trump’s phone call to the International Space Station on Monday was to congratulate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson on setting a new American record for total time in space.

That he did. But, in the process, the president somehow managed to turn the event back to his favorite subject: himself.

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NIAC Phase I Award: Detoxifying & Enriching Martian Soil for Agriculture

Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture (Credit: Adam Arkin)

A Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture

Adam Arkin
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

Although the theoretical case for space biological engineering is convincing, since recent studies on the use of biology in space showed substantial payload minimization over abiotic approaches even before any engineering, the functioning of these biological technologies has yet to be proven in a space-like environment.

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Canadian Astronaut Search Down to 17 Finalists

Canadian astronaut finalists (Credit: CSA)

TORONTO, April 24, 2017 (CSA PR) — Seventeen candidates will go through the final rounds of assessments in the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) Astronaut Recruitment Campaign. By the summer, the CSA will select two qualified astronauts among this pool of finalists.

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Airbus Safran Launchers Begins Production of Ariane 6 Ground Qualification Models

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: ESA–David Ducros,)
  • The “Maturity Gate 6.1” industrialization review was held March 27 to April 20, 2017, among Airbus Safran Launchers, its industrial partners and independent experts
  • Based on the positive outcome of this review, production of the Ariane 6 ground qualification models has been green-lighted
  • The first flight of Ariane 6 is scheduled 2020

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus Safran Launchers PR) — With “Maturity Gate 6.1”, Airbus Safran Launchers and its industrial partners have passed a major milestone in the development of Ariane 6, under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The review confirmed that the maturity of the industrialization of Ariane 6 is sufficient to begin production of the ground qualification models for the future European launcher, in accordance with the objectives of the program.

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Video of President Trump’s Call to Space Station Astronauts

Video Caption: From the Oval Office at the White House, President Trump called Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA April 24 to offer congratulations to Whitson on the day she broke the record for most cumulative days on orbit by a U.S. astronaut. Whitson’s 534-day total surpassed the record held by NASA’s Jeff Williams. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins joined the president to discuss Whitson’s presence as a role model for young women and students as she continues her more than nine-month mission on station.

This Week on The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, April 24, 2017: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): ROBERT WALKER from the UK returns to discuss his latest article, “Why I Wouldn’t Fly With SpaceX To The Moon As Soon As 2018 – If They Paid Me A Billion Dollars?” Yo can read his article at www.science20.com/robert_walker/why_i_wouldnt_fly_with_spacex_to_the_moon_as_soon_as_2018_if_they_paid_me_a_billion_dollars-224975. Time permitting, Robert wants to discuss some of his additional work.

2. Tuesday, April 25, 2017: 7-8:30 PM PDT, 10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT: BOB ZIMMERMAN is back with us for updates and news regarding commercial and science space.

3. Wednesday, April 26 2016: Pre-recorded with John Batchelor; HOTEL MARS WITH LAURA MONTGOMERY. Our topic is The Outer Space Treaty and property rights. As soon as John archives & plays the program on his website, it will be archived on The Space Show site.

4. Friday, April 28 2016: 9:30-11AM PDT, 12:30-2 PM EDT, 11:30AM-1 PM CDT: We welcome back DR. BRUCE CORDELL to discuss the First 100 days of space policy with the Trump Administration in the context of Dr. Cordell predicting a Maslow Window..

5. Sunday, April 30, 2017: 12-1:30 PM DST (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back MARCIA SMITH who will be discussing the newly proposed NASA budget..

Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Qualifications Tests for Starliner Propulsion System

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s MR-104J Hydrazine Monopropellant Engine. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 20, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has successfully completed hot-fire qualification tests of an engine that demonstrates the ability to meet reusability requirements for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner crew module propulsion system.

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NIAC Phase I Award: Phobos L1 Tether Experiment

Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment (Credit: Kevin Kempton)

Phobos L1 Operational Tether Experiment (PHLOTE)

Kevin Kempton
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, Va.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

A sensor package that “floats” just above the surface of Phobos, suspended by a tether from a small spacecraft operating at the Mars/Phobos Lagrange 1 (L1) Point would offer exciting opportunities for science (SMD), for human exploration (HEOMD) and for advancements in space technology (STMD).

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Cygnus Delivers NanoRacks’ Largest CubeSat Mission to ISS

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) — Orbital ATK’s Cygnus (OA-7) spacecraft successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning after launching Tuesday, April 18th from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This mission is NanoRacks’ largest CubeSat mission to date – carrying 38 CubeSats to be deployed from NanoRacks deployers on both the ISS and on the outside of Cygnus.

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Alaska Aerospace Corporation Eyes Asian Smallsat Launch Market

ANCHORAGE, Ala. (AAC PR) — Following participation in the 2017 Japan Space Symposium, Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) President and Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Campbell traveled to Hokkaido, Japan with a joint Japanese and American delegation to visit a proposed launch site in the coastal town of Taiki.

As part of the itinerary, the delegation toured the headquarters and manufacturing facility of Interstellar Technologies. Interstellar Technologies is a Japanese company developing a launch vehicle to support the nano and micro commercial satellite industry.

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Report: Apple Hires Google Satellite Execs, Eyes Boeing Broadband Constellation

Credit: The Boeing Company

Bloomberg has an intriguing report about Apple, Boeing and te emerging battle to provide global broadband services via constellations of satellites.

The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.’s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about Apple’s private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Google. Fenwick, Trela and Duffy didn’t respond to requests for comment….

In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It’s unclear if those talks will result in a deal….

Still, TMF’s Farrar said there’s no guarantee Apple will get involved in the Boeing project. The satellite industry is littered with bankruptcies and other failures. Satellite telephone company Iridium LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999, and Teledesic abandoned its “internet from the sky” plan more than a decade ago.

Indeed, Apple may have hired the Google executives for something other than satellite work. It’s already trying to use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans. And in 2015, it acquired Aether Industries LLC, which develops near-space technology such as high bandwidth radio transceivers and high-altitude balloons.

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