NIAC Phase I Awards for Advanced Surface Operations

Graphic depiction of Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration (Credits: D. Akin)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at two Phase I awards focused on surface operations on other worlds.

Myco-architecture off planet: growing surface structures at destination
Lynn Rothschild
NASA Ames Research Center

Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration
David Akin
University of Maryland, College Park

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Planetary Exploration

Graphic depiction of BALLET: BALloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain (Credits: Hari Nayar)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on planetary exploration.

Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES)
Jeffrey Balcerski
Ohio Aerospace Institute, Cleveland

Marsbee – Swarm of Flapping Wing Flyers for Enhanced Mars Exploration
Chang-kwon Kang
University of Alabama, Huntsville

BALLET: BALloon Locomotion for Extreme Terrain
Hari Nayar
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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Bound for Mars: Countdown to First Interplanetary Launch from California

NASA’s InSight to Mars undergoes final preparations at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., ahead of its May 5 launch date. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In the early morning hours of May 5, millions of Californians will have an opportunity to witness a sight they have never seen before – the historic first interplanetary launch from America’s West Coast. On board the 189-foot-tall (57.3-meter) United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will be NASA’s InSight spacecraft, destined for the Elysium Planitia region located in Mars’ northern hemisphere. The May 5 launch window for the InSight mission opens at 4:05 am PDT (7:05 EDT, 11:05 UTC) and remains open for two hours.

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A Closer Look at NIAC Phase II Awards for Asteroids & Moons

Graphic depiction of Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object (Credits: Steven Oleson)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at the following three Phase II awards focused on new ways of exploring asteroids and moons.

Dismantling Rubble Pile Asteroids with AoES (Area-of-Effect Soft-bots)
Jay McMahon
University of Colorado, Boulder

Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune’s Captured Kuiper Belt Object
Steven Oleson
NASA Glenn Research Center

NIMPH: Nano Icy Moons Propellant Harvester
Michael VanWoerkom
ExoTerra Resource

Each award is worth up to $500,000 for a two-year study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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ESA Tests Largest Mars Parachute

KIRUNA, Sweden (ESA PR) — The largest parachute ever to fly on a Mars mission has been deployed in the first of a series of tests to prepare for the upcoming ExoMars mission that will deliver a rover and a surface science platform to the Red Planet.

The spacecraft that will carry them is due for launch in July 2020, with arrival at Mars in March 2021. The rover will be the first of its kind to drill below the surface and determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the destructive radiation that impinges the surface today.

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First Quarter 2018 Launch Report: China & USA Battle for Lead

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.

China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.

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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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‘Marsquakes’ Could Shake Up Planetary Science

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Starting next year, scientists will get their first look deep below the surface of Mars.

That’s when NASA will send the first robotic lander dedicated to exploring the planet’s subsurface. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, will study marsquakes to learn about the Martian crust, mantle and core.

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NASA Ready to Study Heart of Mars

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA is about to go on a journey to study the interior of Mars. The space agency held a news conference Thursday at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, detailing the next mission to the Red Planet.

Scheduled to launch as early as May 5, NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), a stationary lander, will be the first-ever mission dedicated to exploring Mars’ deep interior. It also will be the first NASA mission since the Apollo moon landings to place a seismometer, a device that measures quakes, on the soil of another planet.

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Be a Flight Director: NASA Accepting Applications for Mission Control Leaders

NASA flight controllers. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — How would you like to sit at the helm of human spaceflight, responsible for the success of missions and the highly trained teams of engineers and scientists that make them possible? NASA is hiring new flight directors for just this job at its mission control at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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NASA Awards ECLSS & Human Health Small Business Contracts

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected 10 projects designed to improve life support systems and human health in space for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Nine of the proposals deal with life support and habitation systems with a tenth involves human research and health maintenance. The two-year SBIR Phase II projects are eligible for up to $750,000 in funding.

Improving life support systems are an important area of research as NASA aims at sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to the moon and various deep-space destinations.

Below is a list of selected projects followed by their abstracts.

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NASA Selects Smallsat Technology Projects for SBIR Funding

Credit: NASA

NASA has selected nine small satellite technology projects for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Each contract is worth up to $750,000 over two years.

The proposals include:

Antara Teknik, LLC
Granite Bay, CA
Efficient and Secure Network and Application Communications for Small Spacecraft

Busek Company, Inc.
Natick, MA
Milliarcsecond Small Spacecraft Attitude Control System

CU Aerospace, LLC
Champaign, IL
Fiber-fed Advanced Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT)

Froberg Aerospace, LLC
Rolla, MO
Multi-Mode Micropropulsion

Gener8, Inc.
Sunnyvale, CA
Integrated Waveguide Optical Gyroscope

Innoflight, Inc.
San Diego, CA
Compact Multi-Protocol Modem

Tethers Unlimited, Inc.
Bothell, WA
MakerSat

Valley Tech Systems, Inc.
Folsom, CA
Affordable Small Satellite Launch Vehicle Reaction Control System

Vector Launch Inc.
Tucson, AZ
Flight Demonstration of a Micropump-based Stage Pressurization System

Summaries of the proposals follow.

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Trump Calls for Space Force, Says We’re Going to Mars

Let me do a little fact checking in this 58 second clip.

Trump: “You see the rockets going up left and right. You haven’t seen that for a long time.”

— The U.S. has been number 1 or 2 in terms of launches for many years. And it has experienced far fewer failures than Russia over the past decade. Our launch rate is increasing thanks to SpaceX, but Trump’s claim that we were somehow lagging is ridiculous.

Trump: “Very soon, we’re going to Mars.”

— Umm…no, we’re not. The moon. Remember? We’re going back to the moon. You signed an executive order saying that like three months ago.

Trump: “You wouldn’t have been going to Mars if my opponent won. That I can tell you. You wouldn’t even be thinking about it.”

— To REPEAT: We’re NOT going to Mars with you in charge. At least not anytime soon.

Trump: “You know, I was saying the other day because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space, maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the space force. And I was not really serious, and then I said, ‘What a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do this.'”

— OK so, I seem to recall this proposal was debated for months and eventually rejected. So, it’s not a new idea Trump magically came up with just the other day. And the time to weigh in to support it was a couple of months ago. It’s kind of what presidents are supposed to do.

NASA Selects 3 ISRU Projects for SBIR Funding

CubeRover on the moon (Credit: Astrobotic)

NASA has selected three proposed focused on a miniaturized lunar rover and extraction of CO2 from the martian atmosphere under the space agency’s Small Business Research Innovation (SBIR) Phase II program.

Astrobotic, Air Squared and TDA Research were selected for two-year contracts worth up to $750,000 apiece to pursue projects focused on the moon and Mars. Each company previously received funding for its in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) project under the first phase of the SBIR program.

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