EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — This year marks 75 years of flight research at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and 2021 adds to those achievements. 2021 continued to be challenging while working in a mostly virtual environment, but progress was surely made.
NASA’s next supersonic X-plane, the X-59, is taking shape for upcoming flights; NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57, completed ground testing to prepare for flights; several Earth science missions were completed around the globe; and many other goals were met to prepare NASA Armstrong for a successful 2022 and beyond.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine space technologies under the agency’s 2021 TechFlights solicitation for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems.
Editor’s Note: Although NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has awarded a grant for Steven Collicott to fly as a researcher on SpaceShipTwo, the space agency has yet to approve Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft or Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle to carry agency-funded researchers. Those technical reviews are on-going at the moment. It’s unclear when approvals might be given. Virgin Galactic is scheduled to complete its flight test program next summer and begin flying paying passengers in the fourth quarter of 2022.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue University PR) — Purdue University’s Steven Collicott was 8 years old when he saw Neil Armstrong step onto the moon and dreamed of reaching the stars. Now, both he and his research are going to make a giant leap into space aboard a Virgin Galactic craft.
Collicott, a professor of aerospace engineering in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was selected Wednesday to receive an award by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program giving him the chance to fly into suborbital space and back on a Virgin Galactic craft while conducting a zero-gravity experiment.
ATLANTA (SpaceWorks PR) – Built to provide a lower-cost option for returning products and experiments from space, SpaceWorks® future RED-4U capsules will serve a vital role in the round-trip space transportation network. In the latest round of testing on October 19th, Atlanta-based SpaceWorks built a prototype of its RED-4U capsule to simulate a portion of the final leg of orbital re-entry, where the capsule fell from near space (20 miles) and landed softly and safely at the test site in Madras, Oregon. The company has been developing its novel line of re-entry devices (RED) for the past four years. This high-altitude drop test was partially funded through NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program and was recently featured on NASA’s website. It is SpaceWorks’ latest step towards fielding a full cargo return capability.
By Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
EDWARDS, Calif. — As you read this article, you don’t need to worry that cosmic radiation might destroy the computer displaying it. That’s because the Earth’s atmosphere provides protection against such radiation. However, for astronauts relying on computing systems in space, cosmic radiation is a real concern. This is why NASA is supporting tests of radiation-tolerant computing systems on suborbital vehicles – and eventually on the Moon.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Following successful Flight Opportunities-supported parabolic flight testing on Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft in April and May, 2021, the Ring-Sheared Drop (RSD) experiment from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center arrived at the International Space Station on Northrop Grumman’s NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft on August 12, 2021.
By Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
MOJAVE, Calif. — Video capture during future lunar landings could play an important role in contributing to researchers’ understanding of disturbances in lunar surface materials – called regolith – caused by the lander’s rocket plume. With support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, on Oct. 14, 2021, researchers from Los Angeles-based Zandef Deksit put a high-tech video capture and regolith sensor payload called ExoCam to the test. The desert environment of Mojave, California, provided a stand-in for the surface of the Moon, and the Xodiac vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) platform from Masten Space Systems was the test vehicle.
Simulating the movement of a lunar lander, the VTVL vehicle enabled researchers from Zandef Deksit and co-investigators from Honeybee Robotics to test an ejection mechanism to jettison the ExoCam onto the desert surface at specific altitudes just before landing. Along with calculations to account for lunar gravity, this helped the team understand the limit of how far from a planetary surface they would need to eject the payload in order for it to survive landing and function properly.
Once on the ground, the payload’s camera captured video footage from the unique vantage point of the desert surface. The ExoCam also utilized a regolith sensor developed by co-investigators at Arizona State University to capture data about the quantity of regolith particles picked up by the vehicle’s rocket plume, as well as the speed at which they were propelled as the lander descended onto the surface.
About Flight Opportunities
Flight Opportunities rapidly demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers. The program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and evaluation of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA seeks to improve a variety of Earth and space-based capabilities, including detecting and tracking wildfires, identifying plumes of gas venting into Earth’s atmosphere, and precision tracking of small spacecraft positions in orbit. The NASA TechLeap Prize is helping to advance these types of technologies for space exploration and Earth observation.
The agency has named three winners in the first TechLeap Prize competition, Autonomous Observation Challenge No. 1. The proposed solutions will help rapidly advance small spacecraft technologies for autonomous observation of events on Earth and beyond, as well as improve communications and computing power in small spacecraft applications. The winning teams will each receive an initial $200,000 prize they can use to begin building their payloads for a later suborbital flight test.
Data from a NASA payload investigating a new method for dealing with trash in space has researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida excited following the Aug. 26 flight test on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission.
August 26, 2021 — A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) experiment was performed aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket today, which launched from Van Horn, Texas. Five variations of the tapered liquid acquisition device (LAD), which is designed to safely deliver liquid propellant to a rocket engine from fuel tanks, were aboard the rocket to evaluate their performance in microgravity.
VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin successfully completed the 17th New Shepard mission to space and back for the program, and the 8th consecutive flight for this particular vehicle.
Today’s flight featured commercial payloads on board, several of which were supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program and included a second flight of the Deorbit, Descent, and Landing (DDL) Sensor Demonstration under a NASA Tipping Point partnership. The DDL demonstration, which flew for the second time mounted on the exterior of New Shepard’s booster, tested technology designed to achieve high-accuracy landing for future Moon missions. This aims to enable long-term lunar exploration.
By Elizabeth DiVito NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program
VAN HORN, Texas — While there won’t be humans on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission, the fully reusable launch vehicle will carry technologies from NASA, industry, and academia aboard. The agency’s Flight Opportunities program supports six payload flight tests, which are slated for lift off no earlier than Aug. 26 from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas.
For some innovations, this is just one of several tests supported by NASA on different flight vehicles. Iterative flight testing helps quickly ready technologies that could eventually support deep space exploration.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is calling on all sixth through 12th-grade educators and students to submit experiments for possible suborbital flights as a way of gaining firsthand experience with the design and testing process used by NASA researchers.
The NASA TechRise Student Challenge invites students to design, build, and launch experiments on suborbital rockets and high-altitude balloons. The challenge aims to inspire a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, space exploration, coding, electronics, and the value of test data.
KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard’s next mission will fly a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule. Liftoff is currently targeted for Wednesday, August 25, at 8:35 am CDT/13:35 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. Live launch coverage begins at T-30 minutes on BlueOrigin.com.