NASA Funds Research into Using Fungi to Grow Off-planet Structures

Credit: Lynn Rothschild

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Lynn Rothschild
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, Calif.

A turtle carries its own habitat. While reliable, it costs energy in transporting mass. NASA makes the same trade-off when it transports habitats and other structures needed for human and other applications on lunar and planetary surfaces “on the back” of its missions. During Phase 1, we identified a novel biology-based solution to in situ production of usable components for space exploration: using fungal mycelial composites to grow structures off-planet, from habitats to furniture.

(more…)

NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

ELaNa 31 CubeSats, SPOC and Bobcat-1, deploy from the International Space Station on Nov. 5, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 small research satellites from nine states – including a first-time selected state, Nebraska – to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching between 2022 and 2025. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in October 2020.

(more…)

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter First Flight Delayed 3 Days

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14.

During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a “watchdog” timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.

The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned.

The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.

China to Spend Billions on New Commercial Spaceports

Long March 5 launches the Chang’e-5 mission to the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

SpaceNews reports that the cities of Ningbo and Wenchang are committing billions of dollars to build commercial coastal spaceports for China’s burgeoning space industry.

The eastern port city of Ningbo in eastern Zhejiang province has committed a total investment of 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) to establish a spaceport at Xiangshan, according to reports Wednesday. It is to be capable of launching up to 100 missions per year.

The spaceport will cover 67 square kilometers, consisting 35 square kilometers for launch sites and 32 square kilometers for support facilities. The site will be situated on the eastern coast and at a similar latitude to China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center and Cape Canaveral in Florida….

Wenchang, on the island province of Hainan and site of China’s coastal launch center developed for large, new-generation Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets, is also backing the construction of an “integrated and open” launch center to meet commercial launch demand.

China News Service (Chinese) reported April 8 that Hainan Province will, with the support and guidance of the National Development and Reform Commission and relevant ministries, increase its support for development of the Wenchang International Space City concept and promote the development of a commercial space center to meets the needs of the commercial space industry.

China Launches Test Satellite

A Chinese Long March 4B rocket launched the Shiyan-6 03 experimental satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Friday, April 9.

Shiyan-6 was developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microsatellite Innovation. The spacecraft was described in official press reports as being used for space environment detection and related technology experiments.

It was the 365th launch of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

UAE Picks First Female Astronaut

Credit: UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has selected its first female astronaut as emirates doubles its astronaut corps to four.

Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla were selected to begin training. They join Hazza Al Mansouri, who became the first Emirati to journey into space during a trip to the International Space Station in 2019, and Sultan Al Neyadi, who was the backup astronaut for that mission.

Al Matrooshi is a 27-year old mechanical engineer who is employed by the National Petroleum Construction Company. She is a native of Abu Dhabi.

Born in 1988, Al Mulla is a pilot and head of the training department at Air Wing Centre. He became the youngest pilot in the Dubai Police at the age of 19, and received a bravery medal from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice president and ruler of Dubai.

Al Matrooshi and Al Mulla were selected from among 4,305 applicants, including 1,400 women. The will begin training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston at the end of this year.

Coverage Set for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 Briefings, Events, Broadcasts

Crew-2 members Megan McArthur, Thomas Pesquet, Akihiko Hoshide and Shane Kimbrough. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission with astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the second crew rotation flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with two international partners. The flight follows certification by NASA for regular flights to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

(more…)

NASA’s Webb Telescope Packs Its Sunshield for a Million Mile Trip

Both sides of the James Webb Space Telescope’s sunshield were lifted vertically in preparation for the folding of the sunshield layers. (Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn)

By Isabelle Yan
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

REDONDO BEACH. Calif. — Engineers working on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have successfully folded and packed its sunshield for its upcoming million-mile (roughly 1.5 million kilometer) journey, which begins later this year.

(more…)

Test Pilot School Graduates First Space Test Fundamentals Class

By 1st Lt. Christine Saunders
U.S. Air Force Test Center Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School graduated the first-ever Space Test Fundamentals class April 6, 2021, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Fifteen enlisted, officer, civilian Airmen and Guardians represent the first class dedicated to testing within the newly contested domain of Space.

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, was on-hand to give the graduation address.

“You were handpicked from a pool of over 160 applicants, not only to attend this inaugural Space Test course, but also to help us build this course and define its future as the initial Space Test cadre,” said Raymond. “You were the “Beta testers” of the course itself, simultaneously studying hard and developing the future of our space test education and training program.”

(more…)

NASA Selects Geostationary and Extended Orbits Imager Phase A Contracts

Hurricane Humberto (Credit: NOAA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected L3Harris Technologies Inc. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Raytheon Company of El Segundo, California, for the Geostationary and Extended Orbits (GEO-XO) Imager (GXI) Phase A Study contracts. The GXI Phase A Study requirement will provide services to help meet the objectives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GEO-XO program.

The total value of each of these one-year firm-fixed price contracts is approximately $6M. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities in Indiana and California.

(more…)

NASA’s Mars Helicopter to Make First Flight Attempt Sunday

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021, the 44th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is two days away from making humanity’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. If all proceeds as planned, the 4-pound (1.8-kg) rotorcraft is expected to take off from Mars’ Jezero Crater Sunday, April 11, at 12:30 p.m. local Mars solar time (10:54 p.m. EDT, 7:54 p.m. PDT), hovering 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds.

Mission control specialists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California expect to receive the first data from the first flight attempt the following morning at around 4:15 a.m. EDT (1:15 a.m. PDT). NASA TV will air live coverage of the team as they receive the data, with commentary beginning at 3:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 a.m. PDT).

(more…)

Acting NASA Administrator Statement on Biden Administration’s $24.7 Billion FY 2022 Budget Request

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Biden-Harris Administration submitted to Congress Friday the president’s priorities for fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending. The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk on the funding request:

“This $24.7 billion funding request demonstrates the Biden Administration’s commitment to NASA and its partners who have worked so hard this past year under difficult circumstances and achieved unprecedented success.

(more…)

Bringing a Rocket Back from Space: Rocket Lab to Recover Electron Booster on Next Mission

A crew recovers the first stage of an Electron rocket from the ocean. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab will attempt to bring an intact rocket back from space in another major step toward making Electron the first reusable orbital small launch vehicle 

Long Beach, California. April 8, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, today announced that on its next mission the company will attempt to bring a rocket back from space, slowing the Electron launch vehicle down from speeds of >Mach 8 as it re-enter’s Earth’s atmosphere before splashing the rocket down in the ocean. The complex mission is the next major step toward making Electron the first orbital-class reusable small launch vehicle, enabling rapid-turnaround launches for small satellites.

(more…)

Space Systems Command to be Located in Los Angeles

ARLINGTON, Va. (U.S. Space Force PR — The Space Force released the organizational structure for its new Space Systems Command April 8. The Command is set to officially stand up in summer 2021 once all required conditions are met to re-designate the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, as SSC headquarters.

SSC will rapidly identify, prototype, and field innovative, space-based solutions to deliver swift and responsive space capabilities to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy.

“Space Systems Command’s organizational structure was purpose-built to anticipate and be responsive to the challenges presented by a contested space domain,” said Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, USSF chief of space operations. “We took the SMC 2.0 transformation of 2019 to the next level, aligning missions and organizations, and pushing authorities down from the three-star level to lower echelons in order to reduce cost and go fast. This will allow us to move at speed in delivering the resilient space capabilities necessary to stay ahead of a growing threat.”

(more…)

NASA Conducts 2nd RS-25 Test in Latest Series for Artemis Moon Missions

RS-25 engine test. (Credit; NASA)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA conducted a second RS-25 single engine hot fire test April 6 as part of a new series to support the development and production of engines for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on future missions to the Moon.

The full-duration hot fire of more than eight minutes (500 seconds) was conducted on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis. It is part of a scheduled seven-test series designed to provide valuable data for Aerojet Rocketdyne, lead contractor for the SLS engines, as it begins production of new RS-25 engines for use after the first four SLS flights.

(more…)