Astrobotic Selected for NASA Small Business Award to Develop Lunar CubeRover


Astrobotic Technology has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to develop a new class of rover to evaluate conditions on the lunar surface.

“The proposed innovation is a Lunar CubeRover specialized as a 2 kg payload to evaluate lander ejecta and to characterize small-rover trafficability,” the proposal states. “This CubeRover and its roles are specific to the RFP though broadly more general and impactful for exploration enterprise.

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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for Six Small Business Awards

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)

Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.

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Report: Google Lunar XPrize Field Narrows

SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

It looks as if Team SpaceIL is out of the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.

Quartz reports the Israeli team will not be able to launch its lander/rover to the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster until some time next year — too late to meet the end-of-2017 deadline required to win the prize.

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NASA Ames Works on Growing Plants on the Moon

NASA Ames’s Lunar Plant Habitat promises to be the first method of growing plants on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center have developed a process for growing plants on the moon (T0140)–a method tested successfully in the lab and matured, in part, through the Flight Opportunities program.

Prior to flight tests of Ames’s Lunar Plant Habitat, no plant-based biological spaceflight experiment had ever hydrated seeds in lunar gravity. Scientists had only performed hydration of seeds at 1 g because they anticipated that the presence of bubbles or of uneven dispersion would result in inferior water distribution in lunar gravity.

Ames’s Lunar Plant Habitat addresses this challenge using a direct pressure pump that works even with air bubbles present, passing water to osmosis paper to distribute it evenly to plant seeds. The technology promises to be the first method of growing plants on the moon and is a direct response to the Decadal Survey calling for investigations into the role of plants in long-term lunar life support.

With the Lunar Plant Habitat tested successfully in ground-based experiments, Ames researchers turned to Flight Opportunities for flight tests to see if the technology would indeed work as anticipated in lunar gravity–and if not, to determine if the system’s sensors would detect the failure.

The payload first underwent parabolic flight testing in 2014. In November 2015 another round of parabolic flight tests was performed to evaluate the flight performance of its microfluidics systems under lunar gravity as well as a camera image capture and system performance evaluation.

The test flights increased the habitat’s technology readiness level (TRL) to 6, and it is now flight qualified for microgravity, low gravity, and 1 g ground and spaceflight applications.

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GLXP Update: Experiment to Fly to Moon on Team Indus Lander

Team Indus has selected this experiment to fly to the moon on its entry in the Google Lunar X Prize. The lander and rover is set to launch later this year. The experiment is based on photosynthesis in cyanobacteria on Moon and liberation of oxygen.

Radiation Experiment to Ride to Moon on Team Indus Lander

“Radio-Shield” is the winning experiment developed by Team Space4Life for Team Indus’ Lab2Moon contest. It will be taken to the moon by the Team Indus entry in the Google Lunar X Prize. Launch is scheduled for the end of this year.

“Radio-Shield” is a solution for efficient protection against space radiation, in order to create a safe habitat for the astronauts who will operate on the Moon or will face long stay travels, during future space interplanetary missions.

Russia Plans to Send Cosmonauts to the Moon

Ergonomic testing has been conducted for the new Federation spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tass reports.

Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.

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Boeing Unveils Deep Space Concepts for Moon and Mars Exploration

Boeing Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Apr. 3, 2017 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] today unveiled concepts for the deep space gateway and transport systems that could help achieve NASA’s goal of having robust human space exploration from the Moon to Mars.

NASA’s Space Launch System, which Boeing is helping develop, would deliver the habitat to cislunar space near the Moon. Known as the Deep Space Gateway, the habitat could support critical research and help open opportunities for global government or commercial partnerships in deep space, including lunar missions. It would be powered by a Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system.

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NASA Selects In-Situ Resource Utilization SBIR Phase II Projects

NASA has selected two proposals related to in-situ resource utilization for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The space agency will enter into negotiations with two companies for contracts worth up to $750,000 apiece over two years.

The selected proposals include:

  • In-Situ Ethylene and Methane Production from CO2 as Plastic Precursors — Opus 12, Inc., Berkeley, CA
  • Extraterrestrial Metals Processing — Pioneer Astronautics, Lakewood, CO

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House Passes NASA Authorization Act


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For the first time in more than six years, Congress has passed an authorization act for NASA that calls for spending $19.5 billion on NASA for fiscal year 2017 and lays out a set of priorities of the agency.

The measure was approved by the House this week after getting Senate approval. The vote came five months into fiscal year 2017.

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CSF Statement on SpaceX Moon Announcement

WASHINGTON (CSF PR) — CSF congratulates SpaceX on this exciting announcement. The first commercial circumlunar flight of two private customers is a great example of American ingenuity, job creation, and innovation. The U.S. commercial space industry is helping to lead the way toward making space more accessible and affordable, while providing key services to NASA for its important national  mission. Yesterday’s announcement by SpaceX is a bold step forward, and we endorse the expanding role that the commercial space industry will play in the exploration and development of space. It’s a wonderful example of how smart public-private partnerships with innovative American companies can inspire, open up new markets, create new jobs, and also support government missions and initiatives.

Elon Musk’s Bold Lunar Gambit: Dueling Moon Missions & a Shrinking Pie

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

I’ve been puzzling for the last few days over the timing of Musk’s moon mission announcement, which was curious for several reasons.

First, it came soon after NASA announced its own study about whether to put astronauts on the first SLS/Orion test in 2019. Why would Musk risk undercuting his biggest customer, a space agency that has provided so much of SpaceX’s development and contract funding?

Second, Musk’s unveiling of the plan seemed to be a rushed, improvised affair. He tweeted about it the day before — a Sunday — and then held a press briefing for a small group of media that lasted all of about five minutes. The contrast with the carefully choreographed unveiling of his Mars transportation architecture last year in Mexico couldn’t be greater.

Third, Musk has never really shown much interest in the moon. Yes, SpaceX might have been doing some planning for a human mission there in private. But, that still doesn’t explain the timing.

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NASA Commends SpaceX for “Reaching Higher”

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

SpaceX to Send Two Space Tourists Around the Moon in 2018

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.

Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

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MoonWatcher Launches Kickstarter Campaign

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (MoonWatcher PR) — Imagine seeing the Moon as only astronauts have seen it before. Now with MoonWatcher, the FIRST private satellite mounted with a state of the art camera, you will have this amazing opportunity.

Spectacular images of the Moon will stream LIVE to the Internet with accompanying information and featuring the latest lunar news. To accelerate the path to orbit, today MoonWatcher announced a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign to raise $150K. MoonWatcher will be putting these Kickstarter pledges towards their first satellite, which will be carried by Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2018.

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