Masten Space Systems Gets NASA Funding for Lunar Research

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Mojave’s Masten Space Systems for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards for work focused on helping the space agency return astronauts to the moon. The awards are worth up to $125,000 apiece.

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NASA Selects Small Spacecraft Technologies for Funding

New high-impulse thrusters and communications technologies that will facilitate missions by groups of spacecraft beyond Earth orbit are among the small satellite technologies that NASA is funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The space agency selected six research and development projects for SBIR Phase II funding. The awards are for up to $750,000 over two years.

Three of the proposals focus on small satellite thrusters. Alameda Applied Sciences Corporation (AASC) of Oakland, California will continue to develop its high-impulse metal plasma thrusters for use on CubeSat missions.

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Masten Space Systems Selected for NASA SBIR Award

Mojave’s Masten Space Systems has been selected for a NASA contract to continue development of technology that will improve the 3-D manufacturing of rocket engine injectors.

Masten work on its PermiAM system will be funded under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award. The contract is worth up to $750,000.

“Masten is currently focusing on the propulsion elements of PermiAM with direct applicability to small satellite launch vehicles, upper stage engines, and planetary landers in support of the NASA [Commercial Lunar Payload Services] program,” the company said in its proposal summary.

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NASA Taps 11 American Companies to Advance Human Lunar Landers

Artist’s conception of lunar lander (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 11 companies to conduct studies and produce prototypes of human landers for its Artemis lunar exploration program. This effort will help put American astronauts — the first woman and next man — on the Moon’s south pole by 2024 and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

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Blue Origin, Masten Vehicles Drive the Highway to Space

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifted off in July 2018 carrying five NASA-supported technologies to flight test in space. (Credit: Blue Origin)

A fledgling industry of rocket and balloon companies is taking science and technology experiments into space-like environments.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — At the edge of space, in the upper reaches of the stratosphere, extremely cold, near-vacuum conditions can be an ideal proving ground for space-related science and technology experiments.

“Earth’s atmosphere can interfere with the ability to do certain types of research, and at this height, you’re above a large majority of it,” says Andrew Antonio, director of marketing at World View, a Tucson, Arizona–based company that sends research and other high-altitude balloons into the space-like stratosphere, which he says offers an affordable environment for some space-related research.

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Mojave’s Masten Space Systems Selected for NASA CLPS Lunar Program

Lunar lander (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, CA, November 29 , 2018 (Masten Space Systems PR) – Masten Space Systems has been awarded NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) IDIQ contract vehicle to deliver payloads to the lunar service. CLPS is a multi-award contract worth $2.6B over the duration of its 10 year performance period. The contract funds launch, landing, and lunar surface systems with first missions targeted as early as 2021.

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NASA Chooses 9 Companies to Bid on Lunar Delivery Contracts

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Nine U.S. companies now are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, as one of the first steps toward long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.

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Sample Return Technology Successfully Tested on Masten Xodiac Rocket

Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac rocket flight tests Honeybee Robotics pneumatic sampler collection system, PlanetVac, in Mojave Desert. (Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Just a sample will do.

Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California, flight tested its pneumatic sampler collection system, PlanetVac, on Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac rocket on May 24, launching from Mojave, California, and landing to collect a sample of more than 320 grams of top soil from the surface of the desert floor.

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Masten Space Systems Selected for NASA SBIR Phase 1 Award

Masten Space Systems of Mojave will pursue a project designed to better use additive manufacturing (AM) in the production of rocket engines with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency selected the company’s PermiAM project for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 program. The contract is worth as much as $125,000 over 13 months.

“Part of the work performed in this SBIR will help in determine the potential savings for future engine development programs, currently projected at 10x for injector build cost savings which require face cooling,” the project summary stated.

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NASA Cancels Lunar Resource Prospector, Promises Aggressive Commercial Strategy

The Resource Prospector prototype searches for a buried sample tube at the Johnson Space Center rock yard in August 2015. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a move that left the lunar science community stunned, NASA has canceled the Resource Prospector mission, which would have sent a rover to the moon to drill holes in search of ice and other volatiles that could be used to support human settlers and miners and turned into fuel to power spacecraft.

In place of the mission, which was set to launch in 2022, the space agency issued a draft request for proposal (RFP) on Friday for the new Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Under CLPS, NASA would pay companies to carry instruments and experiments to the lunar surface aboard privately-built landers and rovers.

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Review of Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight

Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight
by Joe Pappalardo
The Overlook Press
240 pages
2018

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Most travel books promote exciting locales such as Paris, Machu Pichu or Bali that people actually want to visit to relax and escape the pressures of life in the 21st century.

Joe Pappalardo had a different idea for his travelogue. The contributing editor for Popular Mechanics decided to visit various spaceports and rocket test sites to gauge how commercial space is transforming the industry.

Pappalardo’s travels take him from the sandy beaches of Florida and Virginia to the desolate deserts of the American Southwest and steaming jungles of French Guiana. Along the way, we meet everyone from Elon Musk to the crew at Masten Space Systems and the local gentry in the various towns adjoining these facilities.

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The GLXP is Dead! Long Live the GLXP!

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This past week, the XPrize acknowledged the obvious:  after 10 years and multiple deadline extensions, none of the five remaining teams was going to claim the Google Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-built vehicle on the moon that would travel 500 meters across the surface while sending back high-definition video.

The first team to accomplish that goal would have claimed $20 million; the second, $5 million. But, unlike the moon race of the 1960’s, Google’s much hyped moon shot ended not with the deafening roar of a launch but the deadening silence of a dream deferred.

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A Look at NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Plans


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.
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Masten Space Systems’ Progress on NASA’s Lunar CATALYST Program

Masten rocket, Xodiac, launches out of Mojave Air and Space Port carrying JHU APL electromagnetic field measurement experiment. (Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich)

Masten Space Systems is one of three companies NASA has signed agreements with for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) program.

“The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST initiative is for NASA to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering small (30 to 100 kg) and medium (250 to 500 kg) class payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities,” the agreement states.

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