NASA Releases Draft Solicitation on Supplying Lunar Gateway

The power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft – three times more powerful than current capabilities. (Credits: NASA)

By Laura Aguiar
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In the latest step in sending astronauts to the lunar surface within five years, NASA issued a draft solicitation June 14 to industry seeking comments for a future opportunity for American companies to deliver cargo and other supplies to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

The first logistics service to the orbital outpost is expected to deliver science, cargo and other supplies in support of the agency’s new Artemis lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

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Legislation Aims to Protect Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Site

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin steps down the ladder to the surface of the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have introduced legislation aimed at protecting the historic Apollo 11 landing site as the 50th anniversary of the mission approaches next month.

The One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act seeks to protect the Sea of Tranquility site where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked for its historical and archeological value.

“The Apollo 11 landing site and other similar historic landing sites in outer space merit legal protection from inadvertent or intentional interference with such sites or the environment surrounding such sites in order to prevent irremediable loss of archaeological, anthropological, historical, scientific, and engineering significance and value,” the bill states.

“As commercial enterprises and more countries acquire the ability to land on the Moon, it is necessary to ensure the recognition and protection of the Apollo 11 landing site and other historic landing sites together with all the human effort and innovation the sites represent,” the act added.

Organizations conducting operations in space would be required to comply with a set of recommendations issued by NASA in 2011 in order to received an U.S. government license for their missions. Fines are authorized for violations.

The bill contains an exception for activities “determined to have legitimate and significant historical, archeological, anthropological, scientific, or engineering value. The agency granting the license would be required to consult with NASA before granting an exemption.

The measure is being promoted by For All Moonkind, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of space sites.

“Thank you and for the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act! Everyone – contact your Senators and tell them to vote to protect our history in space,” the group Tweeted.

Orion Launch Abort System Designed to Pull its Weight for Moon Missions

Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will soar toward the Moon atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the agency’s Artemis program to establish a permanent presence at the Moon and learn the skills needed to send humans to Mars. Crew members will journey aboard Orion with the confidence knowing the spacecraft is specifically designed with a number of features to support humans traveling to deep space, including a highly capable Launch Abort System (LAS). The LAS is a structure on top of the crew module that can fire within milliseconds and, with the crew module attached, outrun the powerful rocket if an emergency arises during launch.

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Cost of Moon Landing Estimated at $20 to $30 Billion

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

CNN talked to the NASA administrator about the cost of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024.

>The space agency will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years for its moon project, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN Business on Thursday. That would mean adding another $4 billion to $6 billion per year, on average, to the agency’s budget, which is already expected to be about $20 billion annually.

Bridenstine’s remarks are the first time that NASA has shared a total cost estimate for its moon program, which is called Artemis (after the Greek goddess of the moon) and could send people to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century. NASA wants that mission to include two astronauts: A man and the first-ever woman to walk on the moon.

The $20 to $30 billion cost estimate is less expensive than some had predicted — though they’re not necessarily the final figures. Bridenstine acknowledged that spaceflight can be dangerous and unpredictable, so it’s practically impossible to settle on an accurate price tag.

“We’re negotiating within the administration,” he said. “We’re talking to [the federal Office of Management and Budget]; we’re talking to the National Space Council.” (The National Space Council is a recently revived policy development group headed by Vice President Mike Pence.)

Assuming the amount is indeed all new funds and doesn’t include what’s already being spent on Orion, SLS and other programs, the only way to meet the deadline would be through a combination of increases to NASA’s budget and cuts to other parts of the space agency’s budget.

It should be noted that members of the House, which is controlled by Democrats, have thus far rejected significant cuts in other NASA programs as they have worked through the space agency’s fiscal year 2020 budget. The Republican Senate has not weighed in yet.

The other thing the story suggests is that the $1.6 billion in supplemental spending the Administration has requested for NASA’s budget is likely too low. Especially if the Senate follows the House’s lead in rejecting cuts from other agency programs.

Mission Control Secures $250k from Canadian Space Agency to Develop Commercial Lunar Mission Software

OTTAWA, Ont. (Mission Control PR) — Mission Control is excited to announce the support of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for their ongoing development of Mission Control Software for the next generation of commercial space exploration missions. Through the Space Technology Development Program, the CSA will contribute $250k [USD $187,441] to the development of this technology which will help position Mission Control to participate in near term robotic missions to the Moon.

“With ongoing programs such as NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service, a new wave of commercial space exploration is about to break,” said Dr. Michele Faragalli, Chief Technology Officer of Mission Control. “Rovers and other robotic systems will play an essential role in commercial exploration of the Moon.” Current rover technology is expensive and requires continuous management by operators back on Earth. Rover based exploration will be more cost-effective if more tasks can be performed autonomously onboard, and with more flexible options available for the mission operators on earth.

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NASA Invests in Tech Concepts Aimed at Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III. (Credits: William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

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Artemis 1 Flight Control Team Simulates Mission Scenarios

Artemis 1 mission simulation. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In mission control at Johnson Space Center in Houston, flight controllers simulated part of Orion’s uncrewed flight to the Moon for Artemis 1. The team executed an outbound trajectory correction, a maneuver that will be needed to make sure Orion is on the right path after the Space Launch System performs the Trans-Lunar Injection burn that sends the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon. As Orion travels toward the Moon over the course of several days, flight controllers will command Orion from the ground six times to correct its trajectory to ensure the spacecraft can fly by the Moon at the correct time and place. The flight control team is preparing for Artemis missions by refining and practicing procedures they will use on the ground to command and control Orion on its missions to the Moon.

Exploring the Moon Promises Innovation and Benefit at Home

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Walking on another world was science fiction until NASA’s Apollo program made it a reality. Fifty years later, we look back on the benefits of Apollo and imagine how the digital age could transform now that America’s sights are set on returning humans to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis program.

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PBS Commemorates Apollo 11’s 50th Anniversary With 8 DAYS: TO THE MOON AND BACK

Michael Collins (Patrick Kennedy) looking at the Moon out of the Command Service Module window. Collins orbited the Moon alone in the CSM while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin conducted their historic Moonwalk. (Credit: BBC Studios)

ARLINGTON, VA; June 5, 2019 (PBS PR) – PBS is taking viewers on a unique adventure with the crew of Apollo 11 for their eight-day, three-hour, 18-minute and 35-second mission in 8 DAYS: TO THE MOON AND BACK, a new film co-produced with BBC Studios. Premiering Wednesday, July 17 at 9:00 p.m. ET as part of the previously announced “Summer of Space” multiplatform experience, the documentary seamlessly blends authentic rare mission audio featuring candid conversations between Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with newly shot studio footage, NASA and news archives, and stunning CGI recreation of the historic journey and landing to bring this adventure back to life.

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NASA Reaches New Milestone on Complex, Large Rocket

Paul Diaz, a Boeing technician, installs one of 360 bolts to connect the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s massive liquid hydrogen tank to the core stage’s intertank at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Next, the engine section and the four engines will be attached to complete assembly of the stage for the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA achieved a significant milestone in manufacturing the first large, complex core stage that will help power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on upcoming missions to the Moon. NASA and lead contractor Boeing have assembled four-fifths of the massive core stage needed to launch SLS and the Orion spacecraft on their first mission to the Moon: Artemis 1.

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SNC Tapped to Support Accelerated Moon Mission

Descent element for human lunar lander. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev., June 5, 2019 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen, and Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen, has been chosen to develop prototypes of key human lander elements for NASA’s accelerated Artemis lunar exploration program. During the next six months, SNC will perform studies and develop prototypes to help NASA reduce schedule risk for the descent, transfer and refueling elements of a potential human landing system.

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MOONRISE: Melting Moon Dust with a Laser

A laser on a lunar rover. (Credit: LZH)

HANNOVER, Germany (LZH PR) — The moon – Earth satellite, first waypost on the way to other planets, enormously important for space research: With the ambitious MOONRISE project, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Institute of Space Systems (IRAS) of the Technical University of Braunschweig are aiming at melting moon dust with a laser in order to make it usable as building material.

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NASA Updates Work on Lunar Gateway Habitat

Credit: NASA

Even as NASA’s plans for the Lunar Gateway evolve, the space agency is continuing work on developing a habitat for the crew that will use the facility as an orbiting base for the study of the Moon.

Credit: NASA

Marshall Smith, the space agency’s director of Human Lunar Exploration Programs, gave a press report on habitat development to the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration & Operations Committee last week.

Credit: NASA

Five companies were commission to produce prototypes for evaluation and testing: Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Credit: NASA

Smith’s presentation did not include a slide on Bigelow Aerospace’s prototype module.

Credit: NASA

NASA to Test Sensors for Precision Moon Landings on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

NASA Contract Award
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, Virginia

Blue Origin, LLC
Kent, Washington
Amount: $1,301,743

Synopsis:

The work will include the integration of NASA developed technology into Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle, providing opportunities to mature critical sensor technology and algorithms that enable precision and soft landing. Testing will be performed at approximately 100 km altitude on-board the flight proven New Shepard vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) suborbital vehicle.

Blue Origin and NASA will use the flight data to anchor analyses and models and support follow-on ground-based algorithm testing and development. The NASA-developed sensor suite will enable Blue Moon to precisely land anywhere on the lunar surface, from the equator to the poles, from the rim of Shackleton crater to permanently shadowed regions, from the far side locations on the South Pole/Aitken basin to lunar lava tubes.

This contract addresses three high-level technology objectives:

1. Demonstrate the performance of NASA-developed precision landing sensor and processing technology (including, but not limited to, Descent Landing Computer (DLC), Navigation Doppler Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR, NDL) and Landing Vision System (LVS) in an operating envelope (altitude, velocity, and vehicle environments) from space environments through soft propulsive landing operations on a commercial vehicle (the New Shepard Propulsion Module).

2. Demonstrate a commercial guidance and navigation system for safe and accurate lunar landings using NASA-developed Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) and Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA) algorithms as part of a Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) simulation environment.

3. Develop and demonstrate a Flash LiDAR (FL) prototype for hazard detection derived from NASA-developed Flash LiDAR sensor design.