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.

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Orion Ready to Fuel Up for Artemis I Mission

Orion is revealed for one of the final times on Jan. 14, as it is readied atop its transport pallet from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along its path to the pad ahead of the Artemis I launch. Teams across the globe have worked tirelessly to assemble the spacecraft which will receive a protective covering prior to departing for the Multi-Payload Processing Facility to begin ground processing by the Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs teams. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

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

The Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission is taking one more step closer to its flight to the Moon. On Jan. 14, the spacecraft was lifted out of the stand in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers have meticulously outfitted it with thousands of components and tested its systems and subsystems to ensure it can accomplish its mission. With assembly complete, teams are moving it to its next facility for fueling and officially transferring the spacecraft to NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team responsible for processing Orion for its launch later this year.

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NASA InSight’s ‘Mole’ Ends Its Journey on Mars

Illustration of HP3 mole instrument on NASA’s InSight Mars lander. (Credit: DLR)

The heat probe hasn’t been able to gain the friction it needs to dig, but the mission has been granted an extension to carry on with its other science.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The heat probe developed and built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and deployed on Mars by NASA’s InSight lander has ended its portion of the mission. Since Feb. 28, 2019, the probe, called the “mole,” has been attempting to burrow into the Martian surface to take the planet’s internal temperature, providing details about the interior heat engine that drives the Mars’ evolution and geology. But the soil’s unexpected tendency to clump deprived the spike-like mole of the friction it needs to hammer itself to a sufficient depth.

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NASA’s First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids Integrates its Second Scientific Instrument

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission is one step closer to launch as L’TES, the Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer, has been successfully integrated on to the spacecraft.

“Having two of the three instruments integrated onto the spacecraft is an exciting milestone,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The L’TES team is to be commended for their true dedication and determination.”

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Lockheed Martin Wins $4.9 Billion Contract for 3 Missile Warning Satellites

The Pentagon has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth $4.9 billion to build three Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites to warn of incoming missiles.

The contract also covers “delivery of ground mission unique software and ground sensor processing software. Additionally, this modification includes engineering support for launch vehicle integration and launch and early on-orbit checkout for all three” spacecraft for the U.S. Space Force.

“Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, California, and is expected to be completed May 31, 2028.  Fiscal 2021 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $99,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award,” the Pentagon said in its announcement.

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.

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Lockheed Martin To Acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.4 Billion

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 20, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) — Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD) for $56 per share in cash, which is expected to be reduced to $51 per share after the payment of a pre-closing special dividend. This represents a post-dividend equity value of $4.6 billion and a total transaction value of $4.4 billion including the assumption of net cash.

As part of approving the transaction, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced a special cash dividend of $5 per share to its holders of record of common stock and convertible senior notes (on an as-converted basis, and revocable at its option through the payment date) as of the close of business on March 10, 2021, and payable on March 24, 2021.

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3 Things We’ve Learned From NASA’s Mars

Credit: NASA

InSight scientists are finding new mysteries since the geophysics mission landed two years ago.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight spacecraft touched down Nov. 26, 2018, on Mars to study the planet’s deep interior. A little more than one Martian year later, the stationary lander has detected more than 480 quakes and collected the most comprehensive weather data of any surface mission sent to Mars. InSight’s probe, which has struggled to dig underground to take the planet’s temperature, has made progress, too.

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National Team Submits Artemis Human Lander Proposal to NASA

Kent, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The National Team submitted its Option A proposal this week to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in partnership with NASA. Blue Origin leads the Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

Together, these partners guided Apollo, established routine orbit cargo transfer, developed today’s only crewed lunar spaceship, and pioneered planetary precision landing with liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen vehicles. The proposed solution uses flight heritage and modularity to manage risk, move fast, and attain sustainable operations on the Moon.   

During the base period alone, the National Team is completing 25 technical demonstrations, making key progress toward NASA’s mission. Watch this video to learn more about the technical demonstrations and the approach to get America back to the Moon to stay.   

Relativity Space Closes $500 Million Series D Financing

LOS ANGELES, November 23, 2020 (Relativity Space PR — Relativity Space, the first company to 3D print an entire rocket and build the largest metal 3D printers in the world, today announced it closed a $500 million Series D equity funding round.

The round was led by Tiger Global Management with participation from new investors Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Baillie Gifford, ICONIQ Capital, General Catalyst, XN, Senator Investment Group, and Elad Gil. Existing investors participating in the round include BOND, Tribe Capital, K5 Global, 3L, Playground Global, Mark Cuban, Spencer Rascoff, and Allen & Company LLC, among others.

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New Era for Space Station Research Ushered by NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Mission—Astronauts Getting Right to Work

The four Commercial Crew astronauts (front row from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi are welcomed aboard the station. In the back row from left are, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 17, 2020 (CASIS PR) – Early this morning, NASA and SpaceX made history when the first crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, arrived safely to the International Space Station (ISS) after launching from Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A on Sunday evening.

On the SpaceX Crew-1 mission, NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, launched on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history. During their six-month assignment, the Crew-1 astronauts will live and work on the orbiting laboratory, performing multiple research and technology demonstration investigations.

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Orion is ‘Fairing’ Well and Moving Ahead Toward Artemis I

The Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission is in view inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay on Oct. 28. Attached below Orion are the crew module adapter and the European Service Module with spacecraft adapter jettison fairings installed. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

By Tiffany Fairley
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Three spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels have now been fitted onto Orion’s European Service Module as production accelerates inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s  Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Successfully Stows Sample of Asteroid Bennu

The left image shows the OSIRIS-REx collector head hovering over the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) after the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism arm moved it into the proper position for capture. The right image shows the collector head secured onto the capture ring in the SRC. Both images were captured by the StowCam camera. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has successfully stowed the spacecraft’s Sample Return Capsule (SRC) and its abundant sample of asteroid Bennu. On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the mission team sent commands to the spacecraft, instructing it to close the capsule – marking the end of one of the most challenging phases of the mission.

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Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field

Credit: Douglas Messier

Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.

Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.

In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).

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