MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Many regions in the solar system beckon for exploration, but they are considered unreachable due to technology gaps in current landing systems. The CoOperative Blending of Autonomous Landing Technologies (COBALT) project, conducted by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, could change that.
Through a flight campaign this month through April, COBALT will mature and demonstrate new guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) technologies to enable precision landing for future exploration missions.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with eight U.S. companies to advance small spacecraft and launch vehicle technologies that are on the verge of maturation and are likely to benefit both NASA and the commercial space market.
These partnerships are the result of a solicitation released in August 2016 by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), titled Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies. They mark the second round of public-private opportunities that enable industry to develop promising commercial space technologies that also may benefit future NASA missions.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is dedicated to pushing the technological envelope, taking on challenges not only to further space agency missions near Earth, but also to sustain future deep space exploration activities.
“In 2016, we completed several major program milestones,” explains Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for STMD.
HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — A laser-guided navigation sensor that could help future rovers make safe, precise landings on Mars or destinations beyond will soon undergo testing in California’s Mojave Desert.
The Navigation Doppler Lidar, or NDL, which was developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will be flight tested aboard a rocket-powered Vertical Take-off, Vertical Landing (VTVL) platform, named Xodiac, developed by Masten Space Systems, in Mojave, California.
MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA tested new “eyes” for its next Mars rover mission on a rocket built by Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California, in 2014, thanks in part to NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, or FO program.
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words
Come on let’s pivot again, Like we did last quarter! Yeaaah, let’s pivot again, Like we did last year!
Do you remember when, ROI was really hummin’, Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again, Pivotin’ time is here!
Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go! Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!
Let’s pivot again, Like we did last quarter! Yeaaah, let’s pivot again, Like we did last year!
There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala., (U.S. Space & Rocket Center PR) — The U.S. Space & Rocket Center® is pleased to announce the selection of three outstanding individuals who make up the 2016 class of the Space Camp® Hall of Fame: Jason Hopkins, an aerospace engineer and business development specialist at Masten Space Systems and a former NASA Fellow; Dr. Amy Kaminski, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Chief Scientist, NASA; and George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of its release, the Rocket Center is also inducting the cast of “Space Camp,” a movie that launched the dream of attending Space Camp for thousands of children. Larry B. Scott, who played Rudy Tyler in the movie, will accept the induction of the cast into the Space Camp Hall of Fame.
Video Caption: Introducing the next generation of reusable rockets – Masten’s Xodiac and XaeroB.
As the successors to Xombie, Xoie, and Xaero, these two rockets serve as terrestrial test beds for commercial and government developers. Features of Masten terrestrial test bed include:
precision vertical landing
custom flight profile
custom physical/mechanical integration
rocket powered station keeping
Reusable. Repeatable. Precise.
Masten Space Systems reusable launch vehicles are low-altitude, rocket-powered, autonomous Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTVL) testbeds.
Our approach to flight operations is rapid iteration and same day turnaround. We quickly test, evaluate, pivot, and test again.
Leveraging Masten’s vehicles and platform, engineers are able to safely and accurately test their developing space systems in a relevant operational environment before it gets to the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else in the solar system.
The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference finished up today in Colorado. There were provider presentations from Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Three researchers also presented results from suborbital microgravity flights.
Below are summaries of the sessions based on Tweets. (more…)
The three-day Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference began today in Colorado. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I have compiled highlights of a very newsworthy day via Twitter posts. (You can follow along with hashtag #nsrc2016.)
Below is a summary of news and updates provided by Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, World View Enterprises, Exos Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Near Space Corporation, and NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.
DARPA released a solicitation for bids for its XS-1 Phase II/III program on Monday. The private-public partnership includes $140 million in DARPA funding for the reusable booster. According to the solicitation:
“The overall objective of the XS 1 Phase II/III program is to design, build, and flight test a reusable booster system prototype to support an upper stage capable of inserting a minimum of 3,000 pounds to orbit, with a design goal of less than $5M cost per launch for an operational system. The program will demonstrate on-demand and routine flight operations by flying the booster ten times in ten days and launch a demonstration payload greater than 900 pounds to orbit.
“This program solicitation solicits proposals that either, 1) propose a system at a preliminary design review level of rigor tailored for a demonstration rather than an acquisition program, or 2) propose a preliminary design derived from vehicle hardware the proposer has developed and tested. Phase II includes the final design, fabrication, integration, assembly, and ground test of the XS-1 reusable booster system prototype. Phase III is the flight test campaign.”
The solicitation is open to all U.S. companies. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Masten Space Systems received contracts under Phase I.
As I was looking through NASA’s recent small business selection announcement for propulsion-related projects, I have found that the space agency has selected 29 Small Business Innovation Research and 8 Small Business Technology Transfer proposals for funding.
The proposals cover a wide range of areas, including in-space propulsion for CubeSats to technologies for new launch vehicles. Several proposals are also focused on in-space propellant depots.
A list of the selected projects with links to the proposals follows.
DARPA has received authorization to spend $146 million on the next phases of the program, which is enough to select one of the three companies and move forward. It’s not enough to finish the program, so the selected company will need to come up with funds of its own. DARPA hopes to down select by the end of the year.
Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman are the leads for phase 1 of the program. However, phases 2 and 3 are open to all U.S. aerospace companies. DARPA had an industry day for the project on April 29.
Birdzilla remains more zilla than bird. The plane is still under construction, but the company has yet to announce what rocket(s) it will use.
The most recent update I’ve heard through the grapevine is that much of the aircraft is assembled. That’s a good sign, but it could also mean that much of the interior work — which can take a long time — remains to be done.
Last year, the company said it were considering more than 70 different booster configurations, which means they were talking to everyone and anyone with a rocket, an engine or plans for them.
In July, I asked Chuck Beames whether Burt Rutan & Scaled has once again put the flying machine ahead of the rocket, as they did with SpaceShipTwo. He said no, and assured me that they would make an announcement about the booster(s) in the fall.
That time came and went. Officials now say that they expect to make a series of announcements in the coming future.