NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

ELaNa 31 CubeSats, SPOC and Bobcat-1, deploy from the International Space Station on Nov. 5, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 small research satellites from nine states – including a first-time selected state, Nebraska – to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching between 2022 and 2025. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in October 2020.

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Skoltech and MIT Researchers Identify Optimal Human Landing System Architectures to Land on the Moon

Credit: Skoltech

MOSCOW (Skoltech PR) — Researchers from Skoltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have analyzed several dozen options to pick the best one in terms of performance and costs for the ‘last mile’ of a future mission to the Moon – actually delivering astronauts to the lunar surface and back up to the safety of the orbiting lunar station. The paper was published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

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NASA Awards Contract to Astra Space for 3 Launches

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 on the launch pad. (Credit: John Kraus)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Astra Space Inc. to provide a launch service for the agency’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission. The TROPICS mission consists of a constellation of six CubeSats and will increase the scientific community’s understanding of storm processes.

The launch service contract for the TROPICS mission is a firm fixed-price contract valued at $7.95 million. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the launch service.

The CubeSats, each the size of a shoebox, will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements that can be used to determine temperature, pressure, and humidity inside hurricanes as they form and evolve. The TROPICS mission’s high-revisit imaging and sounding observations are enabled by microwave technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. These observations will profoundly improve scientists’ understanding of processes driving high-impact storms.

Astra Space will launch the CubeSats on the company’s Rocket 3 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands with three separate launches over a 120-day period. The TROPICS mission is targeted for launch between Jan. 8 and July 31, 2022, under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch license.

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

Perseverance Experiment to Produce Oxygen on Mars

Video Caption: MOXIE, short for the Mars OXygen In situ resource utilization Experiment, is one of the seven experiments hitching a ride on the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. It’s a collaboration between MIT AeroAstro, the MIT Haystack Observatory, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Carbon dioxide makes up about 96 percent of the gas in Mars’ atmosphere. MOXIE contains a system that pulls in Martian air and electrochemically splits the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and an onboard sensor will allow us to measure the purity of the oxygen we generate. MOXIE will help us get ready for future missions by demonstrating that we can make our own oxygen on Mars to use for rocket propellant and for the crew to breathe when we get there.

AeroAstro graduate student Eric Hinterman has been working on MOXIE since 2016, when he started modeling the MOXIE software and hardware as part of his Master’s thesis. He has continued his work as a PhD candidate, where he is looking at the design and engineering challenges of scaling up the MOXIE technology to a full-size system that could support human life on a Mars mission in the future.

Produced by MIT Video Productions
Directed by Sara Cody, Communications Officer, MIT AeroAstro
Featuring Eric Hinterman

Additional footage provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech
Music credit: Endless Horizons by Ian Post | Artlist.io

Tech Designed by University Students Could Shine Light on Extreme Lunar Environments

Michigan Technological University’s Tethered-permanently shadowed Region Explorer would extract and use the water ice located in and around the lunar polar regions through the use of super conducting cables to deliver large quantities of power to these extremely hard to access regions. (Credits: Michigan Technological University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — “The dark side of the Moon” is sometimes used to describe mysterious things. Though the far side of the Moon isn’t actually dark, there are some areas on the Moon that haven’t seen the Sun in billions of years. Those are the unexplored areas university students aimed to help NASA reach.

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NASA Selects 14 Early Stage Innovations from US Universities for R&D

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Each year NASA selects and funds a number of university researchers to mature game-changing space technologies. The multi-year research and development projects could help develop super-cold space refrigerators and innovate ways to deal with hazardous lunar dust, among other objectives.

In late 2020, NASA selected 14 university-led research proposals to study early-stage technologies relevant to these topics. Each selection will receive up to $650,000 in grants from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program over up to three years, giving the university teams the time and resources to iterate multiple designs and solutions.

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SpaceX CRS-21 Safely Splashes Down Off the Coast of Florida, Returning Science From the Space Station Back to Earth

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., January 14, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely off the coast of Florida last night, concluding a month-plus stay at the International Space Station (ISS) to bring back thousands of pounds of scientific research and cargo.

With this successful splashdown, SpaceX completed its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting laboratory for NASA. This also marks the first mission of the upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft with double the powered locker capacity of previous capsules, allowing for even more research to travel back to Earth for analysis.

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MIT to Use the ISS to Test Smart, Electronic Textiles for Use in Spacesuits and Spacecraft

STS-134 Mission Specialist (MS-3) Andrew Feustel working to install a new MISSE on the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 2 during the first session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA-1). (Credit: NASA)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CASIS PR) — Space can be a dangerous place for astronauts and spacecraft, with harsh conditions and orbital debris that travels at incredibly high speeds. However, imagine a warning system that could be stitched into the fibers of spacesuits or integrated into the exterior of spacecraft that could detect debris impacts and send an early hazard alert.

This is the goal of a new study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The MIT team will embed sensor fibers into conventional spacesuit materials and expose them to the extreme elements of space outside of the International Space Station (ISS) to evaluate the durability and performance of the fibers.

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NASA Selects 19 Small Business Tech Transfer Projects for Further Funding

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 19 proposals from 17 U.S. small businesses for a total of more than $14 million in follow-on funding through the agency’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The awards will help advance NASA priorities such as the Artemis program and other initiatives in aeronautics, human exploration and operations, science, and space technology. 

NASA’s STTR program is open to small businesses partnering with U.S. research institutions to develop an innovation or technology. The partnering component distinguishes STTR from its sister program, NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). 

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MOXIE Could Help Future Rockets Launch Off Mars

Engineers lower MOXIE into the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Perseverance rover carries a device to convert Martian air into oxygen that, if produced on a larger scale, could be used not just for breathing, but also for fuel.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the hardest things about sending astronauts to Mars will be getting them home. Launching a rocket off the surface of the Red Planet will require industrial quantities of oxygen, a crucial part of propellant: A crew of four would need about 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of it to produce thrust from 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel.

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Research Investigations on CRS-21 Sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CASIS PR) — SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply mission (CRS-21) to the International Space Station (ISS) is slated for launch on December 5 at 11:39 a.m. EST from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 15 payloads on this mission that will bring value to our nation and further enable a sustainable market in low Earth orbit.

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How Many Habitable Planets are Out There?

Kepler-186f was the first rocky planet to be found within the habitable zone — the region around the host star where the temperature is right for liquid water. This planet is also very close in size to Earth. Even though we may not find out what’s going on at the surface of this planet anytime soon, it’s a strong reminder of why new technologies are being developed that will enable scientists to get a closer look at distant worlds. (Credits: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) – Thanks to new research using data from the Kepler space telescope, it’s estimated that there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy. Some could even be pretty close, with several likely within 30 light-years of our Sun. The findings will be published in The Astronomical Journal, and research was a collaboration of scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute, and other organizations worldwide.

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NASA Selects 31 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.

“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities  program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.

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Space Health Institute Awards 5 Grants to Mitigate the Effects of Space Radiation on Healthy Human Cell-Derived Organs-On-A-Chip

An astronaut holds a tissue chip. (Credits: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine selected 5 researcher teams to advance the study of space radiation and investigate countermeasures for deep space exploration using human tissue/organ models.

TRISH funds health research and technology to protect astronauts during long-duration space missions. The crew headed to the moon or beyond will experience high Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR) levels, which could endanger their health and the mission’s success.

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Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Research into Search for Primitive Life in Clouds of Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SAN FRANCISCO (Breakthrough Initiatives PR)  – Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere.

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