JPL’s Terrain-Relative Navigation Technology Set to Launch on Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

NASA Press Release

The Technology

Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN) technology from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) enables pin-point landing and large hazard avoidance for crewed and robotic lander vehicles. A camera captures images during vehicle descent, which are subsequently matched to orbital maps stored onboard the lander. Matching images to multiple known terrain features enables automated determination of the lander’s position relative to the terrain.

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NASA to Pay to Fly Employees on New Shepard, SpaceShipTwo

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — For the first time in the agency’s history, NASA has initiated a new effort to enable NASA personnel to fly on future commercial suborbital spaceflights.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has successfully worked with emerging commercial suborbital transportation systems to fly research payloads to space for short periods of microgravity time. In addition, the Flight Opportunities program recently released a call that allows those non-NASA researchers to propose accompanying their payloads in suborbital space.

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Fiber Optic Sensing System Readied for Space Use

Allen Parker, Fiber Optic Sensing System (FOSS) senior research engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, and Jonathan Lopez show how FOSS in aeronautics is used on a wing to determine its shape and stress on its structure. (Credits: NASA/Ken Ulbrich)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will soon test an enhanced system that can take thousands of measurements along a fiber optic wire about the thickness of a human hair for use in space. In the future the technology could monitor spacecraft systems during missions to the Moon and landings on Mars.

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NASA Technology Designed to Turn Space Trash into Treasure

Annie Meier, left, and Jamie Toro assemble the flight hardware for the Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — When you think about what astronauts do in space, you probably don’t picture them taking out the trash.

As NASA prepares to return astronauts to the Moon and then venture to Mars, a lot of planning goes into how to keep crews safe and healthy and enable them to do as much science as possible. One of the challenges is how to handle trash. The Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) project, is an avenue to evolve new and innovative technology for dealing with garbage in space.

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NASA Flight Opportunities Program Seeks Additional Flight Providers

Northwestern University researchers gathered data for their foam experiment during parabolic flight. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center has released a solicitation for additional providers to its Flight and Payload Integration Services contract for the Flight Opportunities program. This contract allows companies to fly research and development technology payloads on suborbital vehicles that provide exposure to space and space-relevant environments.

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NASA to Demonstrate First-of-its-Kind In-Space Manufacturing Technique for Telescope Mirrors

A Goddard engineer won a flight opportunity to show that an advanced thin-film manufacturing technique called atomic layer deposition, or ALD, could apply wavelength-specific reflective coatings on a sample — the first time ALD has been tried in space. (Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

By ​Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Large telescopes that could be used for detecting and analyzing Earth-like planets in orbit around other stars or for peering back in time to observe the very early universe may not necessarily have to be built and assembled on the ground. In the future, NASA could construct them in space.

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Flight Opportunities Tech Flights Solicitation Deadlines Extended

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Flight Opportunities program has been closely monitoring the situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to the evolving situation and impact to businesses and research institutions, we’ve extended the deadlines for NASA’s Tech Flights solicitation.  New deadlines are as follows.

  • Mandatory abstracts due:April 17 at 5 p.m. EDT
  • Full proposals due:May 22 at 5 p.m. EDT

Interested proposers must register with NSPIRES before your abstract can be submitted. NSPIRES is also where your abstract and all other proposal materials must be submitted online.

How To Submit Your Abstract

Your abstract should be completed and submitted using the Notice of Intent (NOI) option in NSPIRES:

1. Log into NSPIRES

2. Navigate to the Tech Flights solicitation page

3. Click on the “Create” button next to the Mandatory Abstracts due date

4. Follow the prompts to complete the requested NSPIRES cover page information and provide the abstract information as the proposal summary. Attachments will not be accepted. 

A Case for Durational Research: Space Plants Co-Investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul

Robert Ferl_and Anna-Lisa Paul (Credit: NASA)

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Q&A

University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.

More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights. 

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NASA Seeks Input on New ‘Tech Flights’ Solicitation that Allows for Human-tended Suborbital Payloads

New Shepard capsule descending under parachutes. (Credit: Blue Origin)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Suborbital spaceflight is valuable for testing and fine-tuning innovative technologies for future missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has tested more than 150 different space technologies in relevant environments aboard suborbital rockets, rocket-powered spacecraft, high-altitude balloons and aircraft with reduced-gravity flight profiles.

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Inner to Outer Space: Studying Biological Changes with Plants on Rockets

The University of Florida’s “space plants” experiment studies include Arabidopsis thaliana plants, as seen here, engineered with fluorescence signaling molecules for precise imaging using advanced cameras and sensors. (Credits: University of Florida)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

What happens to the genes of organisms as they travel from the ground, through Earth’s atmosphere and into space? Does their expression change? Are the changes subtle or dramatic? Do they happen quickly or gradually?

Answering such fundamental research questions is essential to our understanding of the impact of space travel on humans and other organisms. Two researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville have been chipping away at the answers since the 1990s—using plants.

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UP Aerospace Announces Successful Launch of Space Loft-14 Rocket from Spaceport America

The Affordable Vehicle Avionics payload fits into the avionics bay of UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft vehicle. It provides the intelligence to command the guidance and control system for the rocket. (Credits: U.S. Army)

Spaceport America, NM, November 27th, 2019 (Spaceport America PR) – Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico and UP Aerospace, a space launch and flight test service provider based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado with facilities at Spaceport America, announced the successful launch of UP Aerospace’s Space Loft 14 (SL-14) rocket from the Spaceport America Vertical Launch Area on Friday, November 22.

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UP Aerospace Launch Tests New Technologies

UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft rocket. (Credits: NASA)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NASA PR) — On Nov. 22 UP Aerospace launched its SpaceLoft rocket on a flight funded by the company’s NASA Tipping Point award. The Affordable Vehicle Avionics (AVA) project from NASA’s Ames Research Center was one of several payloads onboard.

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In Orbit and On Budget: Launching Small Payloads Faster and Cheaper

The Affordable Vehicle Avionics payload fits into the avionics bay of UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft vehicle. It provides the intelligence to command the guidance and control system for the rocket. (Credits: U.S. Army)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NASA PR) — What does a satellite the size of a shoebox, a human skin tissue sample and a 5G network testing device have in common? They are all examples of payloads NASA and other organizations would like to launch into orbit at low cost—to gather data for scientific research; test new technologies; and transmit and receive data for weather, broadcast, military and emergency communications. But doing so on any sort of accelerated schedule can be a challenge.

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NASA Sponsored Experiment on Board Failed SARGE Launch

A cloud of dirt rises after the impact of the SARGE booster. (Credit Exos Aerospace webcast)


UPHAM, NM (NASA PR) — On Oct. 26, Exos Aerospace launched its SARGE suborbital reusable launch vehicle from Spaceport America, New Mexico, with a NASA Flight Opportunities–supported payload onboard: the University of Central Florida’s Suborbital Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment-2 (SPACE-2). The flight was aborted 48 seconds after launch due to what the company reported to be a structural failure. 

Exos is in the process of evaluating video and telemetry data from the flight and intends to implement lessons learned from its first three SARGE launches. The company stated in a press release its plans to work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on a return-to-flight protocol and planned vehicle upgrades in advance of flying again by mid-2020.