Blue Origin to Acquire Honeybee Robotics

ALTADENA, Calif., January 25, 2022 (Honeybee Robotics PR – Honeybee Robotics (Honeybee) today announced that it will be acquired by Blue Origin. With major operations in Longmont, Colorado and Altadena, California, Honeybee will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Origin, headquartered in Kent, Washington. The deal between Honeybee’s parent organization, Ensign-Bickford Industries, and Blue Origin is expected to close in mid-February. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Since 1983, Honeybee Robotics has delivered more than 1,000 advanced projects to government and industrial customers in the spacecraft, planetary exploration, defense robotics, medical devices, mining, oil and gas, and utility infrastructure sectors. Its innovative, reliable, and literally groundbreaking robotic systems operate throughout space: in commercial launch vehicles and satellites and doing innovative work on the Moon, Mars, and Titan. Honeybee’s extensive experience in planetary robotics and mechanisms, drills, motors, actuators, drive electronics, and specialized space mechanisms is complementary to Blue Origin’s system capability’s goal of making space flight routine, and vision of opening space resources to benefit Earth. 

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NASA Selects Nine Space Technologies for Commercial Suborbital Flight Tests

Carthage College student Nicolas Welker prepares to start a zero-gravity transfer of propellant simulant during a flight on Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE on Nov. 16, 2021. The flight enabled testing of technology designed to gauge propellant levels during on-orbit refueling and transfer operations. (Credits: Zero Gravity Corporation/Steve Boxall)

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.

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Action! Filming a Simulated Lunar Landing From the Dusty Desert Floor

Zandef Deksit’s ExoCam in its metal cage rests on the desert surface of Mojave, California. Masten Space Systems’s Xodiac VTVL vehicle can be seen in the ExoCam’s viewfinder and in the distance. (Credits: Jason Achilles Mezilis/Zandef Deksit, Inc.)

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.

Mitigating Lunar Dust: Masten Completes FAST Landing Pad Study

A spacecraft creates its own landing pad using the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique system. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) — Landing on the Moon (and staying on the Moon) is no easy task. The lunar surface has limited sunlight, extremely cold temperatures, and lots and lots of dust (a.k.a. lunar regolith). But the good news is, Masten is up for the challenge!

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Apollo to Artemis: Drilling on the Moon

This mini-panorama combines two photographs taken by Apollo 15 lunar module pilot Jim Irwin, from the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) site, at the end of the second Apollo 15 moonwalk on August 1, 1971. Scott is leaning to his right and is putting down the Apollo Lunar Surface drill used to take core samples and set up a heat flow experiment. The Solar Wind Spectrometer is in the right foreground. The min-pan of photographs AS15-11845 and 11847 was combined by Erik van Meijgaarden, volunteer contributor to the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal site. (Credits: Erik van Meijgaarden)

By Leejay Lockhart
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Fifty years ago, Apollo 15 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, sending Commander David R. Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden, and Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin on the first of three Apollo “J” missions. These missions gave astronauts the opportunity to explore the Moon for longer periods using upgraded and more plentiful scientific instruments than ever before. Apollo 15 was the first mission where astronauts used the Apollo Lunar Surface Drill (ALSD) and the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).

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SwRI Awarded Lunar Lander Investigation Contract

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)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 21, 2021 (Southwest Research Institute PR) — To advance understanding of Earth’s nearest neighbor, NASA has selected three new lunar investigations, including a payload suite led by Southwest Research Institute. The Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) is one of two packages that will land on the far side of the Moon, a first for the agency, as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, initiative.

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Break the Ice: Masten Designs Rocket Mining System to Extract Lunar Water

Mining system on the moon. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten PR) — At Masten, we’re working to accelerate the realization of space ecosystems on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Our goal is to unlock the value in space to ultimately benefit humans on Earth. So how do we achieve that? First, we’ll enable regular, sustainable access to the lunar surface. Then, we’ll make it possible to extract and utilize extraterrestrial resources, such as water, methane, and rare-Earth metals. These resources can be used not only for fuel and power, but they also open the door to new commercial applications and technology innovations that can help preserve our resources on Earth.

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Probing for Life in the Icy Crusts of Ocean Worlds

During 2019 field tests near Greenland’s Summit Station, a high-elevation remote observing station, the WATSON instrument is put through its paces to seek out signs of life, or biosignatures, 360 feet (110 meters) down a borehole. The winch that holds the drill pokes out the top of the drill tent. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A technique for scanning Mars rocks for microscopic fossils of ancient life is also being developed to hunt for microbes in the deep ice of Enceladus, Titan, and Europa.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Long before NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, one of its highest-level mission goals was already established: to seek out signs of ancient life on the Martian surface. In fact, the techniques used by one of the science instruments  aboard the rover could have applications on Saturn’s moons  Enceladus and Titan as well Jupiter’s moon Europa.

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Masten & PISCES Receive NASA Grant to Develop Low-energy 3D Construction Method for Moon, Mars

HILO, HI (PISCES PR) — Masten Space Systems together with Pacific International Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) has been awarded a NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase 1 grant of up to $125,000 to develop a low-energy, additive construction method for the moon and Mars.

When humans go back to the moon, they will need materials to build shelter, infrastructure and crucial components for survival and operations. Not only that, but they will need an energy-efficient technique that takes raw materials and turns them into usable products—all in the vacuum of space.

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NASA Partners with Altius, Honeybee & OrbitFab to Test Satellite Fixtures for Robotic Grappling

A robotic servicing arm (left) practices autonomous capture of a satellite mockup (right) in Goddard’s Robotic Operations Center. Because there is no grapple fixture, the arm will use the marman ring, which originally attached the satellite to the rocket that launched it to space. (Credits: NASA/Rebecca Roth)

by Tracy Vogel
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has chosen three companies to participate in a new partnership to test and evaluate satellite servicing technologies.

Altius Space Machines of Broomfield, Colorado, Honeybee Robotics of Longmont, Colorado, and Orbit Fab of San Francisco will provide cooperative robotic grapple fixtures and data to be studied by NASA’s Exploration and In-Space Services projects division (NExIS, formerly known as the Satellite Servicing Projects Division) engineers. The engineers will utilize robotics facilities at Goddard via Space Act Agreements to collect data on the performance of the companies’ fixtures.

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UArizona Scientists Will Test Mars Exploration Drones in Iceland with $3 Million NASA Grant

TUCSON, Ariz. — A team of scientists led by Christopher Hamilton of the University of Arizona is gearing up to send drones on exploration missions across a vast lava field in Iceland to test a next-generation Mars exploration concept.

Hamilton is the principal investigator on a project that has been awarded a $3.1 million NASA grant to develop a new concept combining rovers and unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones, to explore regions of the red planet that have been previously inaccessible. These new Rover–Aerial Vehicle Exploration Networks will be tested in Iceland to explore volcanic terrains similar to those observed on Mars.

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The Perils and Promise of Dust on the Moon

Xodiac (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities program

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Think your home could use a bit of a sweep? Fret not – your hardwoods are nothing compared to the Moon. Its surface is so notoriously dusty that the desert here on Earth is the environment of choice for testing dust-related technologies bound for lunar missions.

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NASA Selects Intuitive Machines to Land Water-Measuring Payload on the Moon

NASA has selected Intuitive Machines to deliver a drill combined with a mass spectrometer to the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded Intuitive Machines of Houston approximately $47 million to deliver a drill combined with a mass spectrometer to the Moon by December 2022 under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The delivery of the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment known as PRIME-1 will help NASA search for ice at the Moon’s South Pole and, for the first time, harvest ice from below the surface.

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NASA Selects 31 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.

“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities  program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.

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