NASA Selects Astrobotic for 2 Small Business Awards to Improve Spacecraft Operations

A rendering of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is shown, with NASA’s three water-detecting payloads (MSolo, NSS, and NIRVSS) highlighted in blue. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to develop technology to help spacecraft improve proximity operations in orbit and avoid hazards when landing on other worlds.

(more…)

Firefly Research Receives NASA SBIR Award for Solar Electric Space Unity Vehicle

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected the research arm of Firefly Aerospace for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a solar electric transfer stage capable of taking payloads from the Earth to the moon.

“Firefly Research, LLC (FFR) is pleased to propose to NASA the development of a Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) to a CDR [critical design review] level of fidelity,” the technical abstract said. “This vehicle serves as a solar electric transfer stage, offering enough Delta-V to transfer more than 500 kg of payload from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) after launch on a small lift launch vehicle.

(more…)

NASA Engineers Analyze Navigation Needs of Artemis Moon Missions

Illustration of NASA’s lunar-orbiting Gateway and a human landing system in orbit around the Moon. (Credit: NASA)

By Danny Baird
​NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Space communications and navigation engineers at NASA are evaluating the navigation needs for the Artemis program, including identifying the precision navigation capabilities needed to establish the first sustained presence on the lunar surface.

(more…)

Astrobotic Selects Agile Space Industries to Provide Attitude Control Thrusters for Lunar Missions

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

DURANGO, Colo., February 16, 2021 — Polar Moonshots are in a league of their own when it comes to the level of difficulty. In order to overcome this historically daunting challenge for the first-ever Griffin Mission transporting NASA’s VIPER rover to the Moon’s South Pole, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program selectee Astrobotic is enlisting Agile Space Industries to help them go where no American spacecraft has gone before. Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission lander is relying on Attitude Control Thrusters (“ACT”s), from Agile to provide steering capabilities in the vacuum of space. Agile’s innovative custom propulsion solutions utilize 3D printing of exotic metal alloys to provide unprecedented performance, along with minimized mass and cost.

(more…)

NASA Awards Firefly Aerospace $93.3M to Deliver Suite of Payloads to the Moon in 2023

Blue Ghost lander on the moon. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, February 4, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced that NASA has awarded Firefly $93.3 million to deliver a suite of ten NASA-sponsored science and technology demonstration payloads to Mare Crisium in the Moon’s Crisium basin. Firefly’s ‘Blue Ghost’ lunar lander will deliver the payloads to the lunar surface in 2023 in fulfillment of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order 19D, managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

(more…)

Lunar Traffic to Pick Up as NASA Readies for Robotic Commercial Moon Deliveries

This photograph of a nearly full Moon was taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft at a point above 70 degrees east longitude. Mare Crisium, the circular, dark-colored area near the center, is near the eastern edge of the Moon as viewed from Earth. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA is working on various science instruments and technology experiments from the agency that will operate on the Moon once American companies on Commercial Lunar Payload Services  (CLPS) contracts deliver them to the lunar surface. Through CLPS flights, NASA is buying a complete commercial robotic lunar delivery service and does not provide launch services, own the lander or lead landing operations.

(more…)

NASA Advancing Global Navigation Satellite System Capabilities

Deployment of Bobcat-1 from the International Space Station. (Credit: Nanoracks)

by Danny Baird
​NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program office

NASA is developing capabilities that will allow missions at high altitudes to take advantage of signals from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) constellations — like GPS commonly used in the U.S. These signals — used on Earth for navigation and critical timing applications — could provide NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon with reliable timing and navigation data. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program is developing the technologies that will support this goal.

(more…)

Astrobotic Selects Navigation Doppler Lidar from Psionic for Mission to Deliver VIPER to the Lunar Surface

A visual rendering of Griffin utilizing Navigation Doppler Lidar sensor to guide landing on the lunar surface. (Credit: Psionic LLC)

Navigation Doppler Lidar chosen for high accuracy and NASA heritage for 2023 CLPS mission to search for water on the Moon

PITTSBURGH, Pa. and HAMPTON, Va. (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic today announced they have selected Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) from Psionic for their mission in late 2023 to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the South Pole of the Moon.

The NDL serves as a critical sensor element as part of the Griffin Lander’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) system to ensure a safe, precise landing. In June 2020, NASA awarded a $199.5 million contract to Astrobotic under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. 

(more…)

Astrobotic Completes Successful Testing with NASA’s Water Detecting Payloads

A rendering of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is shown, with NASA’s three water-detecting payloads (MSolo, NSS, and NIRVSS) highlighted in blue. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Three of NASA’s payloads set to fly aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander in 2021 have successfully completed preliminary interface simulation testing between Astrobotic, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center payload teams.

(more…)

Tiny NASA Cameras to Watch Commercial Lander form Craters on Moon

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — This little black camera looks like something out of a spy movie — the kind of device one might use to snap discrete photos of confidential documents.

It’s about half the size of a computer mouse.

But the only spying this camera — four of them, actually — will do is for NASA researchers wondering what happens under a spacecraft as it lands on the Moon.

(more…)

NASA Explores Upper Limits of Global Navigation Systems for Artemis

An Orion spacecraft approaches the lunar Gateway. (Credit: NASA)

By Danny Baird
​NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program office

The Artemis generation of lunar explorers will establish a sustained human presence on the Moon, prospecting for resources, making revolutionary discoveries, and proving technologies key to future deep space exploration.

To support these ambitions, NASA navigation engineers from the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program are developing a navigation architecture that will provide accurate and robust Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) services for the Artemis missions. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals will be one component of that architecture. GNSS use in high-Earth orbit and in lunar space will improve timing, enable precise and responsive maneuvers, reduce costs, and even allow for autonomous, onboard orbit and trajectory determination.

(more…)

NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

(more…)

Commercial CubeRover Test Shows How NASA Investments Mature Space Tech

The Astrobotic CubeRover traverses the terrain in the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory regolith bin at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 10, 2020. The regolith bin simulates the mechanical properties of the Moon’s surface. NASA and Astrobotic employees put the CubeRover through a series of more than 150 mobility tests over several days to evaluate and improve wheel design. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently put a new, small robotic rover through its paces inside a 120-ton bin of regolith rock and dust that simulates the lunar surface.

The four-wheeled CubeRover rolled over dunes of abrasive dust, turned in place, and then trundled up and down steep trench walls within the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations (GMRO) laboratory as it performed more than 150 mobility tests. The rover’s creators, from Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, worked alongside Kennedy’s Swamp Works team, assessing the robot’s maneuverability and how its sensor, motor, and power systems operated in the dusty environment.

(more…)

Image-Based Navigation Could Help Spacecraft Safely Land on The Moon

Nova-C lander on the lunar surface. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

Research demonstrates how a series of lunar images could provide key navigational data

TROY, NY (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute PR) — In order for future lunar exploration missions to be successful and land more precisely, engineers must equip spacecraft with technologies that allow them to “see” where they are and travel to where they need to be. Finding specific locations amid the moon’s complicated topography is not a simple task.

(more…)

NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team Wednesday during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(more…)