NIAC Phase I Awards for Advanced Surface Operations

Graphic depiction of Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration (Credits: D. Akin)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at two Phase I awards focused on surface operations on other worlds.

Myco-architecture off planet: growing surface structures at destination
Lynn Rothschild
NASA Ames Research Center

Biobot: Innovative Offloading of Astronauts for More Effective Exploration
David Akin
University of Maryland, College Park

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
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Mars Parachute Test Successfully Launched from Wallops

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — The launch of a Black Brant IX sounding rocket carrying the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment or ASPIRE was successfully conducted at 12:19 p.m. EDT, March 31, 2018, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

ASPIRE was testing a parachute for possible future missions to Mars.

The next ASPIRE test at Wallops is currently scheduled for later this summer.

ASPIRE is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is based at Wallops. Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington manages the sounding rocket program for the agency.

NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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World View Executes NASA Flight Opportunities Program Mission

Balloon launch. (Credit: World View)

TUCSON, Ariz. (World View PR) – World View, the stratospheric exploration company, announced today that it has successfully executed a Z-Class high-altitude mission commissioned by the NASA Flight Opportunities program office (FOP) for two principal customers, the NASA Ames Research Center  and Space Environment Technologies, both of whom are studying radiation detection and its energy levels at different altitudes.

The Z-Class mission launched from Spaceport Tucson at approximately 9:39 a.m. PT on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

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NASA to Launch Parachute Test off Virginia Coast March 27

The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) 2 payload undergoes testing in the sounding rocket payload facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, prior to transport to the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA will test a parachute for possible future missions to Mars from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday, March 27. Live coverage of the test is scheduled to begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT on the Wallops Ustream site.

The launch window for the 58-foot-tall Terrier-Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket is from 6:45 to 10:15 a.m. Backup launch days are March 28 to April 10.

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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Nearing the End as Fuel Runs Low

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Trailing Earth’s orbit at 94 million miles away, the Kepler space telescope has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays. At this rate, the hardy spacecraft may reach its finish line in a manner we will consider a wonderful success. With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel. We expect to reach that moment within several months.

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A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees


So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.

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NASA Announces Ninth Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 11 small research satellites from seven states and Puerto Rico to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The selections are part of the ninth round of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or “U”, and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size.

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NASA’s Next Exoplanet Satellite Arrives at NASA Kennedy

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. (Credits: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next planet-hunting mission has arrived in Florida to begin preparations for launch. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.

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Sierra Nevada Corporation’s STPSat-5 Satellite Completes Ground Compatibility Testing

STPSat-5 satellite in SNC’s Louisville, CO facility. (Credit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev. — January 24, 2018 (SNC PR) –  Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Test Program Mission 5 (STPSat-5) satellite moved another step closer to launch, successfully completing its Factory Compatibility Test (FCT) with NASA’s Near-Earth Network and the NASA Ames Multi-Mission Operations Center.

STPSat-5 hosts five Department of Defense (DoD) experiments to test emerging space technologies and is expected to launch in 2018.  SNC completed mechanical integration in September, stacking three functional modules (propulsion, bus and payload deck) to form the complete space vehicle.

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NASA Partners with Technology Innovators to Enable Future Exploration


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two teams of agency technologists for participation in the Early Career Initiative (ECI) program. The program encourages creativity and innovation among early-career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions.

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NASA Is Sending E. coli to Space for Astronaut Health

EcAMSat (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ever wonder what would happen if you got sick in space? NASA has sent bacteria samples into low-Earth orbit to help find out.

One of the agency’s latest small satellite experiments is the E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite, or EcAMSat, which will explore the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity of space. This CubeSat – a spacecraft the size of a shoebox built from cube-shaped units – has just been deployed from the space station, and may help us improve how we fight infections, providing safer journeys for astronauts on future voyages, and offer benefits for medicine here on Earth.

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Former NASA Ames Official Joins Luxembourg Space Affairs Department

Gary Martin

Luxembourg, November 14, 2017 (Luxembourg PR) – The Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy today announced that Mr. Gary Martin, former Director of Partnerships at NASA Ames, recently joined its Space Affairs Department. As an independent advisor, Gary Martin assists the Directorate-General for Research, Intellectual Property and New Technologies, in charge of Space Affairs, to implement the strategy relating to the SpaceResources.lu initiative in close collaboration with national partners from research and academia.

Gary Martin retired from the position as Director of Partnerships at NASA Ames Research Center, which is one of ten NASA field centers and is located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. He was in charge of identifying new business opportunities, creating entrepreneurial partnerships, transferring NASA technology to industry, and contributing to the development of the Center’s long-term strategy. Gary Martin was with NASA for over 25 years and worked at Langley Research Center, NASA Headquarters and Goddard Space Flight Center before joining NASA Ames.

Gary Martin stated: “I am honored to assist the Luxembourg Government in its efforts to position Luxembourg as an ideal location for innovative projects in advanced space technologies.”

Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Etienne Schneider, commented: “I am delighted to welcome in our team a recognized expert for his contribution to research and innovation at NASA. Gary Martin will put his expertise and experience to the benefit of Luxembourg’s willingness to sustain the development of a new economic era in space and the positioning of the country as a global space hub.”

NASA to Host Global Exploration Road Map Workshop

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will host a two-day virtual community workshop, Nov. 29 and 30, to conduct discussions with external stakeholders that will inform development of an update to the Global Exploration Roadmap (GER). The GER is a publication authored by NASA and the other 14 space agencies that comprise the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG). The roadmap outlines a phased approach to achieving the common goal of sending humans to the surface of Mars.

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NASA’s Space Act Agreements with SpaceX, Boeing, ULA & Sierra Nevada


NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with SpaceX, Boeing, United Launch Alliance and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The four companies have been involved with NASA’s Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Services programs.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
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