MethaneSAT Completes Critical Design Review, Moves into Production Phase

MethaneSAT (Credit: EDF)

Sensors and spacecraft exceed mission performance goals; flow of precision measurements will open up new opportunities to track and reduce potent greenhouse emissions

SAN FRANCISCO (EDF PR) –MethaneSAT has reached an important new milestone with completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) phase for both the mission’s remote sensing instrument and the spacecraft platform “bus” that will provide power and maneuvering, and transmit the vast stream of data from the high resolution sensors to ground stations. Completion of the CDR means that MethaneSAT is now entering the production stage with a design that exceeds anticipated capabilities.

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Ball Aerospace Selected for Space RCO Tactical Ground Command, Control and Communications

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 26, 2020 (Ball Aerospace PR) — Ball Aerospace, teamed with Booz Allen Hamilton, was awarded a contract by the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (SpRCO) to serve as the prime system integrator for the SpRCO Ground Command, Control and Communications (GC3) system. GC3 will integrate into and help enable the larger tactical command and control enterprise for the United States Space Force.

“The GC3 System Integrator program provides a great foundation to work with SpRCO and other space resiliency mission partners to develop and deliver advanced capabilities to support the warfighter,” said Mark Healy, vice president and general manager, National Defense, Ball Aerospace. “This mission aligns directly with the 2020 Defense Space Strategy to enable the Department of Defense (DoD) to defend the space domain.”

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NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission Nears Completion

Green Propellant Infusion Mission in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

by Lance Davis
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA just validated a new type of propellant, or fuel, for spacecraft of all sizes. Instead of toxic hydrazine, space missions can use a less toxic, “green” propellant and the compatible technologies designed to go along with it. In a little over a year since launch, NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) successfully proved a never-before-used propellant and propulsion system work as intended, demonstrating both are practical options for future missions.

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NASA Awards Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV Contracts

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded contracts to five aerospace firms for the Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV spacecraft and related services. Each contractor has one or more core spacecraft offerings available under their contract.

Under these multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts, spacecraft and related services will be purchased via government placed firm-fixed price delivery orders. These multi-agency contracts may support any NASA center and other federal agencies.

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Northrop Grumman Completes Preliminary Design Review for Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Subsystem

AZUSA, Calif., June 24, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Ball Aerospace have successfully completed the preliminary design review (PDR) for the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous (GEO) Block 0 mission payload.

Next-Gen OPIR is a satellite system that will provide improved missile warning capabilities that are more resilient against emerging threats. As the successor to the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), Next-Gen OPIR’s first block of satellites will include five space vehicles, three in geosynchronous earth orbit and two in polar orbit.

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Meet 8 Teams Sending Payloads to the Moon on Masten’s Lander

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) — Imagine having the opportunity to send your payload to the lunar surface. Not next decade, but in 2022!

Well, that’s the incredible opportunity that the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project — and Masten Space Systems — has presented for 8 visionary teams and their instruments. Each and every one is cool in their own way and we couldn’t be prouder to be the lunar lander company that will set them down safely on the surface of the Moon. 

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Satellite Host Named for NASA Air Pollution Sensor

Maxar will build the Intelsat 40e geostationary communications satellite and integrate NASA’s TEMPO payload with it. (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

A NASA instrument that will measure air quality over North America in unprecedented detail during daylight hours now has a satellite host.

Maxar Technologies and Intelsat recently agreed to partner to host NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument onboard the Intelsat 40e mission. In 2019, NASA selected Maxar to host the TEMPO instrument utilizing the U.S. Air Force Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) contract vehicle.

Intelsat 40e is based on Maxar’s 1300-class satellite platform and will provide commercial satellite communications for Intelsat customers in North and Central America. The satellite is scheduled to launch into geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth’s equator in 2022.

TEMPO will make hourly measurements of atmospheric gases — including ozone, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde as well as aerosols — across North America and provide air quality products that will be made publicly available and help improve air quality forecasting.

“We are excited about this important step required to lay the operational framework for TEMPO’s critical air quality measurements. We look forward to working closely with both Maxar and Intelsat for the successful integration, launch and deployment of TEMPO,” said Stephen Hall, TEMPO project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The TEMPO instrument project is led by Principal Investigator Kelly Chance from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The instrument was developed by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, and is in storage awaiting shipment to Maxar’s satellite manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California.

TEMPO will be part of a constellation of instruments measuring air quality over the Northern Hemisphere that will also include the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-4, currently in development, and South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer, scheduled to launch later this month.

Ball Aerospace Delivers Earth Science Instrument for Landsat 9

Landsat 9 Operational Land Imager 2 (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 27, 2019 (Ball Aerospace PR) — Ball Aerospace delivered the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) for Landsat 9, completing development of the instrument on schedule and under budget. Ball will continue to support instrument integration and spacecraft-level testing, working closely with NASA and the Landsat 9 spacecraft provider.

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Air Force Selects Ball Aerospace, Microsoft to Demonstrate Cloud Processing for LEO Constellations

BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 17, 2019 (Ball Aerospace PR) — Ball Aerospace and Microsoft were selected to demonstrate agile cloud processing capabilities in support of the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Commercially Augmented Space Inter Networked Operations (CASINO) project. The demonstration will show how simultaneous, worldwide data streams from large, distributed constellations of small satellites can be processed quickly using Microsoft’s Azure cloud and Ball Aerospace algorithms.

Additionally, the demonstration will include a single downlink directly into a Microsoft data center using a Ball Aerospace phased array antenna.

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Ball Aerospace’s Green Propellant Mission Ready to Launch

Ball Aerospace technicians use specialized equipment to build the GPIM satellite so that the space vehicle instruments and thrusters align perfectly with the payload interface. (Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.)

BOULDER, Colo., June 21, 2019 (Ball Aerospace PR) — A Ball Aerospace satellite used for NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) is ready for launch, scheduled for no earlier than June 24 on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Ball built the small satellite, which contains NASA’s first opportunity to demonstrate a new “green” propellant and propulsion system in orbit – an alternative to conventional chemical propulsion systems.

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A Look at the Payloads in Falcon Heavy’s STP-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — The Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission, managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), is targeting launch on June 24, 2019, with the launch window opening at 11:30 p.m. ET. Lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this mission will deliver 24 satellites to space on the DoD’s first ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver and a total mission duration of over six hours. In addition, the U.S. Air Force plans to reuse side boosters from the Arabsat-6A Falcon Heavy launch, recovered after a return to launch site landing, making it the first reused Falcon Heavy ever flown for the U.S. Air Force.
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Ball Aerospace’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission Satellite Arrives in Florida

A Ball Aerospace engineer adjusts the thermal insulation on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft bus following integration of the propulsion system. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

BOULDER, Colo., May 20, 2019 (Ball Aerospace PR) — The Ball Aerospace-built small spacecraft for NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) arrived in Florida today to prepare for a June launch on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. GPIM is NASA’s first opportunity to demonstrate a new “green” propellant and propulsion system in orbit – an alternative to conventional chemical propulsion systems.

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ULA & Ball Aerospace Seeks Student Payloads for Launch

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has issued its request for student teams from kindergarten through 12th grade to create “payloads” for the 2019 ULA and Ball Aerospace Student Rocket Launch. More than 20 K-12 student teams will have a chance to design, build and launch objects, experiments or instruments on the ULA-intern-built Future Heavy Super Sport rocket next summer. Teams can choose to compete for a chance to win up to $5,000 for their school or sponsoring nonprofit organization by guiding their payload closest to a designated ground-based target.
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NASA’s NEOWISE Asteroid-Hunter Spacecraft Releases Fourth Years of Survey Data

NEOWISE (Credit; NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its fourth year of survey data. Since the mission was restarted in December 2013, after a period of hibernation, the asteroid- and comet-hunter has completely scanned the skies nearly eight times and has observed and characterized 29,375 objects in four years of operations. This total includes 788 near-Earth objects and 136 comets since the mission restart.

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NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Astronomy & Astrophysics


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on astronomy and astrophysics.

Modular Active Self-Assembling Space Telescope Swarms
Dmitry Savransky
Cornell University

Astrophysics and Technical Study of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft
Nickolas Solomey
Wichita State University

Spectrally-Resolved Synthetic Imaging Interferometer
Jordan Wachs
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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