SwRI-led Team Selected for NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

BOULDER, Colo. (SwRI PR) — NASA announced it has selected a new team led by Southwest Research Institute to its Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

Project ESPRESSO (for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations) is a consortium of seven research institutions dedicated to developing tools and techniques needed for future human exploration of the solar system. Led by SwRI and funded by NASA under an approximately $5 million contract, ESPRESSO comprises six other partner institutions, two industry partners, and an international group of collaborative institutions.

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OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Search Tests Instruments, Science Team

The path of the Main Belt asteroid 12 Victoria, as imaged by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Feb. 11, 2017, during the mission’s Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search. This animation is made of a series of five images taken by the spacecraft’s MapCam camera that were then cropped and centered on Victoria. The images were taken about 51 minutes apart and each was exposed for 10 seconds. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — During an almost two-week search, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission team activated the spacecraft’s MapCam imager and scanned part of the surrounding space for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids — objects that scientists believe may exist in one of the stable regions that co-orbits the sun with Earth. Although no Earth-Trojans were discovered, the spacecraft’s camera operated flawlessly and demonstrated that it could image objects two magnitudes dimmer than originally expected.

The spacecraft, currently on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, flew through the center of Earth’s fourth Lagrangian area — a stable region 60 degrees in front of Earth in its orbit where scientists believe asteroids may be trapped, such as asteroid 2010 TK7 discovered by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite in 2010. Though no new asteroids were discovered in the region that was scanned, the spacecraft’s cameras MapCam and PolyCam successfully acquired and imaged Jupiter and several of its moons, as well as Main Belt asteroids.

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Vector Space Systems Announces Plans to Launch From Cape Canaveral

Editor’s Note: LC-46 is operated by Space Florida and is located at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Orbital ATK is scheduled to launch the U.S. Air Force’s ORS-5 mission aboard a Minotaur IV booster from LC-46 later this year.

NASA Selects CubeSat, SmallSat Mission Concept Studies


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected ten studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program, to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

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Ariane 5 Launch Postponed Due to Striking Workers

Ariane 5 launch (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace was forced to canceled a scheduled Ariane 5 launch on Tuesday due to striking workers in French Guiana.

The booster was to have launched the SGDC and Koreasat 7 communications satellites. No new date has been set for the flight.

Workers from Endel Engie, the company tasked with driving the Ariane 5 rocket from its assembly building to the launch pad at the Guiana Space Center, went on strike Monday and prevented the booster’s rollout. A union representative told French media that the strike was called to reopen wage negotiations….

The Endel Engie strike was part of a wider net of protests this week across French Guiana, a lightly-populated French department on the northeastern coast of South America. France Guyane, a local newspaper, reported Thursday that most businesses in Cayenne, the territory’s capital, were closed and large aircraft were prohibited from landing at the city’s airport.

Some schools in French Guiana were also closed this week, and an Air France flight from Paris to Cayenne turned around over the Atlantic Ocean and returned to France on Thursday.

Local workers are protesting high crime rates, hiring practices and economic conditions in French Guiana, along with the proposed privatization of the Kourou Medical and Surgical Center, or CMCK, in the town closest to the space center.

Arianespace issued the follow statement on Thursday.

The evolution of the situation does not permit the restart of operations for the Ariane 5 launch scheduled for today, Thursday, March 23, Arianespace has decided to postpone the launch.

The launch vehicle, with its SGDC and KOREASAT-7 satellite payloads, remain in a stand-by mode and are being maintained in fully safe conditions.

Arianespace Flight VA236 – which is scheduled to launch SGDC for Telebras S.A., performed within the framework of a contract with SGDC prime contractor VISIONA Tecnologia Espacial S.A.; and KOREASAT-7 for ktsat.

 

More Delays Possible for Russia’s Troubled ISS Laboratory

Multi-Purpose Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

Poor Russia.

The country keeps trying to expand its use of the International Space Station, but the centerpiece of that effort — the Multi-Purpose Laboratory Module (MLM), named Nauka — has been delayed for a decade since its planned 2007 launch.

But, with launch planned for the end of this year or during the first half of 2018, more problems have been found.

In the past few weeks, engineers found the same contamination they’ve been fighting for years inside the module’s propellant tanks. The repair team tried to wash off these contaminants, but so far all efforts to cleanse the vessels have failed.

To make matters worse, these particular tanks, originally designed in the early 90s, are no longer in production and simply can’t be replaced. Because of these tanks’ unique design, fitted neatly onto the module like the chamber of a revolver, no modern tanks will work without damaging the spacecraft.

Nauka engineers did catch one lucky break. Roscosmos originally designed the vessel with a second set of shorter tanks. But to make room on the exterior of the converted module for the attachment of a European-built robotic arm and various scientific instruments, engineers removed the them. Now, these remaining (hopefully non-contaminated) tanks could be the only chance to get this long beleaguered spacecraft attached to the ISS.

Engineers have calculated that a mix of four of these short tanks and two long tanks will give the Nauka module just enough propellant to maneuver itself to the space station after its separation from the Proton M rocket and even have some extra fuel for another attempt to rendezvous with the station if needed.

Although a thin ray of hope remains that Russia will finally get its long delayed spacecraft aloft, no one can tell right now how long this new obstacle will delay the Nauka from finally docking with the ISS.

Read the full story.

Video: Likely Next NASA Administrator Bridenstine Lays Out Space Priorities

Video Caption: Few people in Congress are watched as closely as Rep. Jim Bridenstine. The Republican from Oklahoma, entering his third term in the House, has emerged as a key figure space policy, particularly through his introduction last year of the American Space Renaissance Act, a comprehensive space policy bill. He is also widely considered the leading candidate to be nominated by the Trump administration to be the next administrator of NASA.

Bridenstine spoke at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon March 21, immediately after leaving the White House to attend the signing ceremony for a new NASA authorization act. In his speech, he covered some of the civil, commercial and national security space priorities he would like to address in a revised version of his American Space Renaissance Act, while addressing questions about plans to reestablish the National Space Council and when we might expect a new NASA administrator.

Space Systems Loral Sues Orbital ATK Over Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

Even before the first robotic satellite servicing mission is launched, there have been two — count ’em, two — robotic satellite servicing lawsuits.

Space Systems/Loral is suing rival Orbital ATK over an alleged theft of proprietary data and business plans for an in-space satellite servicing technology, according to a complaint filed on Thursday.

The lawsuit is the second in six weeks involving the companies and their efforts to start a new industry servicing and repairing satellites in orbit.

At least four confidential SSL documents were viewed and distributed by an Orbital ATK employee working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where the data is stored as part of an ongoing SSL partnership with the U.S. space agency, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia….

SSL, a subsidiary of Canada-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., said it was informed of the data breach by NASA in December 2016.

Orbital acknowledged the unauthorized access of SSL’s data and fired the employee, but did not respond to questions about the scope of the breach or about five other Orbital employees whom NASA said may have read the SSL documents, the lawsuit said.

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Origami-inspired Robot Can Hitch a Ride with a Rover

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The next rovers to explore another planet might bring along a scout.

The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) in development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was inspired by origami. Its lightweight design is capable of flattening itself, tucking in its wheels and crawling into places rovers can’t fit.

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Futuristic Atomic Clock Prepared for Space

Tom Cwik, the head of JPL’s Space Technology Program (left) and Allen Farrington, JPL Deep Space Atomic Clock Project Manager, view the recently integrated Atomic Clock Payload on Surrey Satellite US’s Orbital Test Bed Spacecraft. (Credit: Surrey Satellite Technology)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (NASA PR) — No one keeps time quite like NASA.

Last month, the space agency’s next-generation atomic clock was joined to the spacecraft that will take it into orbit in late 2017.

That instrument, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. On Feb. 17, JPL engineers monitored integration of the clock on to the Surrey Orbital Test Bed spacecraft at Surrey Satellite Technology in Englewood, Colorado.

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Bird.i Partners with DigitalGlobe on High-Resolution Satellite Images

Credit: Bird.i

GLASGOW, UK (Bird.i PR) — Bird.i, the premiere global platform for accessing the world’s best satellite, airborne and drone imagery, has today announced that it has signed a partnership agreement with leading high-resolution satellite imagery leader DigitalGlobe, Inc. (NYSE: DGI).

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NASA Taking First Steps Toward High-speed Space ‘Internet’

Engineers are currently testing the optical module assemblies on the Goddard-built optical test bench to ensure pointing accuracy during the upcoming mission. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Sandra Vilevac)

By Ashley Hume
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, Md.

NASA is developing a trailblazing, long-term technology demonstration of what could become the high-speed internet of the sky.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will help NASA understand the best ways to operate laser communications systems. They could enable much higher data rates for connections between spacecraft and Earth, such as scientific data downlink and astronaut communications.

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Congress, President Fail to Embrace Musk’s Bold Plan for Mars

Last September, Elon Musk made his pitch for a bold new approach to sending people to Mars that requires substantial taxpayer supporter. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a NASA authorizing act that maintains the slow, steady-as-she-goes status quo. The billionaire was not amused.

Trump: Making America First in Space Again

Credit: Matt Wade

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Today, President Donald J. Trump signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017, the first comprehensive NASA authorization passed by Congress in more than six years. The bill demonstrates strong bipartisan support for our Nation’s space program and helps ensure that NASA remains at the forefront of exploration and discovery.

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