Last month NASA officials gave a series of presentations about the space agency’s deep-space exploration plans to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee. I have excerpted slides from those presentations to provide an overview of what the space agency is planning. (more…)
TOKYO — ispace, a Japanese start-up responsible for Team HAKUTO’s entry in the Google Lunar X Prize, is planning to announce “the largest fund raised in Series A in the global space industry” next week to support its efforts to mine the moon.
“It involves a round of significant financing and details around the next missions of ispace, planned after the currently run HAKUTO project,” according to an invitation sent to journalists.
NASA is seeking “proposals for trade studies and design, fabrication, and testing of critical components and subsystems for acquisition and processing of extraterrestrial resources into water, oxygen, and fuel.”
The broad agency announcement (BAA) came in an appendix to the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program, which has been working with commercial companies on facilitating space exploration and development beyond Earth orbit.
Elon Musk conducted an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on Saturday. Below are selected responses to questions. A full list of questions and answers is located here.
Will be starting with a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance. Those are fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines.
Next step will be doing orbital velocity Ship flights, which will need all of the above. Worth noting that BFS is capable of reaching orbit by itself with low payload, but having the BF Booster increases payload by more than an order of magnitude. Earth is the wrong planet for single stage to orbit. No problemo on Mars. (more…)
PARIS (ESA PR) — In the first act of lunar exploration, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were major characters. In setting its sights on the Moon, ESA hopes to bring many more actors to this off-world stage.
By testing the market for transport services to the Moon, ESA aims to push the limits of technology and create new models of space business.
COLOGNE, Germany (ESA PR) — Bricks have been 3D printed out of simulated moondust using concentrated sunlight – proving in principle that future lunar colonists could one day use the same approach to build settlements on the Moon.
“We took simulated lunar material and cooked it in a solar furnace,” explains materials engineer Advenit Makaya, overseeing the project for ESA.
While competitors in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize are rushing to launch small rovers and hoppers to the moon by the end of the year to replicate what the Soviets achieved in the 1970’s, NASA has been quietly working on a much more capable vehicle designed to take lunar exploration to the next level.
Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics has been selected for a NASA small business award to begin development of a system to extract soil from martian soil.
“The Advanced Mars Water Acquisition System (AMWAS) recovers and purifies water from Mars soils for oxygen and fuel production, life support, food production, and radiation shielding in support of human exploration missions,” the proposal states. “The AMWAS removes water from Mars soils using hot, recirculating carbon dioxide gas to provide rapid heat transfer. The AMWAS evaporates water from ice and salt hydrates, leaving dissolved contaminants in the soil residue.”
Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.
NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded five grants for the development of new technologies for analyzing asteroids, extracting resources from them, and using the materials for new space products.
Massively Expanded NEA Accessibility via Microwave-Sintered Aerobrakes
John Lewis Deep Space Industries, Inc. Moffett Field, Calif.
Value: Approximately $125,000 Length of Study: 9 months
The two fundamental prerequisites for large-scale economic use of space resources are: in-space manufacture of propellants from nonterrestrial bodies, and in-space manufacture of heat shields for low-cost capture of materials into Earth orbit.
The former has been the subject of recent NIAC investigations. The latter would expand by a factor of 30 to 100 time the number of asteroids from which resources could be returned cost-effectively to Earth orbit.
With vastly larger populations from which to choose, return opportunities will be much more frequent and targets can be selected where operations would be highly productive, not merely sufficient.
The feedstocks for manufacture of life-support materials and propellants are found on C-type near-Earth asteroids, which have high concentrations of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. The total abundance of readily extractable (HCNOS) volatiles in the CI chondritic meteorite parent bodies (C asteroids) is roughly 40% of the total meteorite mass. Further, the residue from extraction of volatiles includes a mix of metallic iron (10% of total mass), iron oxide and iron sulphides (20% as Fe) plus 1% Ni and ~0.1% Co.
We propose to use microwave heating to 1) expedite selective release of H2O vapor from heated C asteroid solids, and 2) sinter highly outgassed refractory asteroidal material to make heat shields for aerocapture at Earth return.
We will study both processes experimentally using C-type asteroid simulant made by Deep Space Industries under contract with NASA, and study the logistics of retrieval of asteroid materials to Earth orbit using these aerobrakes.
The result will be a uniquely propellant-rich deep space exploration architecture with faster timetables enabled by the greater engineering and safety margins allowed by abundant propellant.
NASA has selected two proposals related to in-situ resource utilization for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The space agency will enter into negotiations with two companies for contracts worth up to $750,000 apiece over two years.
The selected proposals include:
In-Situ Ethylene and Methane Production from CO2 as Plastic Precursors — Opus 12, Inc., Berkeley, CA
Extraterrestrial Metals Processing — Pioneer Astronautics, Lakewood, CO