NASA Invests in Tech Concepts Aimed at Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III. (Credits: William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

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NASA Selects Two New Space Tech Research Institutes for Smart Habitats

Habitation concept interior. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As exploration missions venture beyond low-Earth orbit and to the Moon — and eventually Mars — NASA must consider automated technologies to keep habitats operational even when they are not occupied by astronauts. To help achieve this, NASA has selected two new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space habitat designs using resilient and autonomous systems.

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Astrobotic Announces Selection of Two New NASA Research Contracts

Pittsburgh, Pa. (Astrobotic PR)  Astrobotic Technology Inc., announces $250,000 in new contract awards through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

These two contracts, which were awarded to the company’s Future Missions and Technology (FM&T) department, will help the company develop novel technologies and strategies for the exploration of space and planetary surfaces.

Through an SBIR contract, “Software Defined Reliability for Low Cost Digital Signal Processors on Small Spacecraft” FM&T will address the needs of the growing space computing market for the next wave of robotic spaceflight customers with Astrobotic’s proprietary “Software Defined Reliability” (ASDR) technology.

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Astrobotic, Carnegie Mellon University Project Aims to Control Multiple Planetary Robots

CubeRover on the moon (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon University will develop methods that will allow planetary rovers to work together to explore the surface of other worlds under a NASA contract.

The space agency selected a proposal by the partners for funding under the Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) program. The 13-month contract is worth a maximum of $125,000.

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Astrobotic Awarded NASA Contract to Develop CubeRover for Lunar Missions

CubeRover on the moon (Credit: Astrobotic)

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected by NASA for a Phase II SBIR Award to develop CubeRover, a class of 2-kg rover platform capable of small-scale science and exploration on the Moon and other planetary surfaces. This new small rover platform complements Astrobotic’s lunar payload delivery service by providing a low-cost mobility capability to the lunar surface for customers around the world.

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Astrobotic to Develop CubeRover Standard for Planetary Surface Mobility

CubeRover on the moon (Credit: Astrobotic)

PITTSBURGH, May 4, 2017 (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected by NASA to develop CubeRover, a class of 2-kg rover platforms capable of small-scale science and exploration on planetary surfaces. The team will design a CubeRover capable of evaluating lunar lander ejecta and characterizing surface mobility. CubeRover will establish a new standard for small-scale surface-deployable science and exploration platforms.

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NSRC Day 3 Summary

Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems’ Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference finished up today in Colorado. There were provider presentations from Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Three researchers also presented results from suborbital microgravity flights.

Below are summaries of the sessions based on Tweets.
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Astrobotic, Carnegie Mellon Awarded NASA STTR Funding

Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)
Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic Technology Inc., in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, announces $375,000 in contract awards through NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The three proposals will develop sensing and navigation technologies to expand capability for resource exploration on and under the surface of the Moon, Mars, and other planetary bodies.

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Masten’s Xombie Tests Sensors for Future Lunar Mission

Launch sequence collage of Masten Space Systems' XA-0.1B Xombie suborbital technology demonstration rocket during a NASA-sponsored flight and landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)
Launch sequence collage of Masten Space Systems’ XA-0.1B Xombie suborbital technology demonstration rocket during a NASA-sponsored flight and landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) students developed a sensor package to analyze large pits in the surface of the moon or Mars that could lead to openings of caves. The package was launched recently on Masten Space Systems’ XA-0.1B Xombie suborbital technology demonstration rocket during a NASA-sponsored launch and landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.

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NASA Ames, Universities in Talks on Moffett Research Park

NASA Ames and a group of local universities led by the University of California at Santa Cruz are in discussions about the development of a major new campus at Moffett Field to conduct space travel research, the Mountain View Voice reports.

“UCSC, Santa Clara University, the Foothill-De Anza College District and Carnegie Melon University have all signed a letter of intent with NASA Ames, with all of them seeking a major presence in the NASA Research Park planned for Moffett.

“‘It’s an agreement to hold open discussions between us and NASA to see if we can arrive at a plan that will allow us to implement a vision for the research park,’ said Bill Berry, managing director of UCSC’s Affiliated Research Center.”

Tony Spear discusses Lunar X prize

Tony Spear, project manager for Carnegie Mellon’s Google Lunar X Prize entry, recently engaged CMU students and faculty in a lighthearted and informative discussion about the competition.

“At Carnegie Mellon, understanding the problem and the approach to the solution is more important than the answer [itself],” said Spear, discussing his return to Carnegie Mellon after 46 years to join William “Red” Whittaker and his Google X Prize team.