By Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
What happens to the genes of organisms as they travel from the ground, through Earth’s atmosphere and into space? Does their expression change? Are the changes subtle or dramatic? Do they happen quickly or gradually?
Answering such fundamental research questions is essential to our understanding of the impact of space travel on humans and other organisms. Two researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville have been chipping away at the answers since the 1990s—using plants.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In 2013, a startup company had an idea for using extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins that would serve as an environmentally conscious alternative to meat-based proteins.
Following a handful of small investments from government agencies, including a $124,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract from NASA, Sustainable Bioproducts announced in early 2019 it received $33 million in venture capital financing, including backing from two of the world’s biggest food and agriculture companies.
By Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
MOJAVE, Calif., September 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — When Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, it first flew over an area littered with boulders before touching down at the Sea of Tranquility. The site had been selected based on photos collected over two years as part of the Lunar Orbiter program.
But the “sensors” that ensured Eagle was in a safe spot before
touching down – those were the eyes of NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — At the heart of future rocket engines lifting off to the Moon or Mars could be a 3D printed combustion chamber. Multiple NASA centers partnered with Virgin Orbit to develop and test a uniquely manufactured rocket part.
By Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
EDWARDS, Calif. — “We are now on the verge of giving students and teachers the ability to build and fly affordable experiments in space. When teachers are this excited about putting experiments in space, their students can’t help but get excited about space, too.”
Elizabeth Kennick, president of Teachers in Space, does not take the opportunity to fly an experiment to space for granted. The nonprofit organization has worked with educators and engineers to design and test standard equipment for classroom-developed experiments, including 3D-printed frames, customizable processors, power adaptors and more. The equipment first flew on high-altitude balloons and more recently on a stratospheric glider. Now, thanks to support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the equipment will fly higher than ever before: to space on the next launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — In late 2018, Flight Opportunities welcomed John Kelly back to the program in the role of program manager. We sat down with John to get his thoughts on how the program has changed over the years, and his goals moving forward.
You originally worked with the Flight Opportunities program as program manager back in 2010. How has the program changed since then?
Initially, Flight Opportunities matched technology payloads to commercial vehicles. We’ve now moved to a principal investigator (PI)-oriented model where recipients of a NASA Tech Flights award have the opportunity to identify a suitable commercial vehicle and engage directly with the flight provider to execute their flight testing. These vehicles are adding to the breadth of flight profiles and capabilities that PIs have access to and the data they can gather to help mature their technologies. This new PI-centric model and the increasing number of commercial vehicles combine to give Flight Opportunities the promise of attracting a healthy supply of promising technologies. These innovations will in turn contribute to NASA’s goals as well as the expansion of space commerce.
Can you share how your vision for the program is beginning to take shape?
It is my vision to maintain a healthy supply of high-quality technologies coming in to the program pipeline that can help NASA achieve its mission objectives. The latest Tech Flights solicitation provides for a significant increase in individual award amounts. This should generate a higher quantity of proposals, resulting in more high-quality technologies entering the program. With a steady supply of technologies ready to fly, Flight Opportunities is also poised to successfully stimulate transactions in the commercial space market — an objective of the program.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for the commercial space community at the moment?
The challenge is to determine the true size of the marketplace, which will in turn determine the number of viable suppliers. Commercial suborbital flight providers offer services that NASA needs to perform payload testing, and NASA will continue to consume those services so long as they are provided.
>And the greatest opportunity?
With NASA’s renewed emphasis on returning to the Moon, as well as a manned mission to Mars, commercial suborbital flight providers have an opportunity to serve the technology development community to help us get there. Commercial providers are ideally positioned to get those technologies up the readiness curve prior to infusion into NASA’s missions to the Moon and Mars.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Suborbital space is the perfect environment for researchers to test experiments, edging them closer to inclusion on future exploration and science missions. NASA’s Flight Opportunities program gives researchers this access, funding flights on Blue Origin and other commercial providers.
VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission (NS-10) is currently targeting liftoff tomorrow at 8:30 am CST / 14:30 UTC. This will be the 10th New Shepard mission and is dedicated to bringing nine NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. (more…)
MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — A winged spacecraft will soon take off with four NASA-supported technology experiments onboard. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will separate from the WhiteKnightTwo twin-fuselage carrier aircraft and continue its rocket-powered test flight.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Former NASA research pilot and astronaut Richard “Rick” Searfoss died Sept. 29 at his home in Bear Valley Springs, California. He was 62.
Searfoss, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, served as a research pilot in the flight crew branch at NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center in California from July 2001 to February 2003, having brought with him over 5,000 hours of military flying and 939 hours in space.
He flew on three space flights, onboard space shuttles Columbia and Atlantis, logging 39 days in space. Searfoss was the pilot for his first two space missions, STS-58 and STS-76, landing both times at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Once at Dryden, medical staff was standing by for the astronauts as well as personnel who supported the NASA convoy team in preparing the shuttle for its return ferry flight to Florida.
SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NASA PR) — Three NASA technology demonstration payloads launched aboard UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft 12 mission from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Sept. 12.
The suborbital rocket carried an umbrella-like heat shield called Adaptable Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT). Developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, ADEPT’s unique design could be used for planetary lander and sample return missions. The flight tested the heat shield’s deployment sequence and entry performance.
Another Ames payload called Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor (SFEM-3) measures the internal environment of suborbital rockets carrying experiments. The system monitored acceleration, temperature and pressure within the payload bay during flight and could benefit future suborbital launches.
The third technology is from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is the Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS). While the termination device was not active during launch, the payload tested hardware and software performance in the high dynamics of suborbital flight.
The payload flight tests were funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Flight Opportunities program, managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 15 promising space technologies to be tested on commercial low-gravity simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons and suborbital rockets. These flights will help advance technologies for future spaceflight, taking them from the laboratory to a relevant flight environment.
During an Aug. 28 visit to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, where the Flight Opportunities program is managed, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency will focus on funding more of these payload flights in the future.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — In late June, Flight Opportunities announced the selection of Tim Chen as its new program manager. Formerly the small launch technology manager for Flight Opportunities, Tim provided oversight to NASA’s Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity (ACO) and Tipping Point activities, which help to advance small launch technology to benefit both NASA and industry. While continuing to oversee these agency goals, this summer he stepped into his new role to oversee the full program. We recently spoke with Tim about his new role and strategy for the transition to program manager. (more…)
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, will collaborate with United Launch Alliance (ULA) on two selected proposals.
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.
Through these new awards, selected companies will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for integration and flight services, drawing from a pool of commercial space companies. The five-year contracts have a combined potential contract value of $45 million. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.
The selected companies are:
Aerostar International (Raven Aerostar), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Blue Origin Texas, LLC, Van Horn, Texas
Up Aerospace Inc., Littleton, Colorado
World View Enterprises, Inc., Tucson, Arizona
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is charged with maturing crosscutting technologies to flight readiness status for future space missions. The agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, manages the Flight Opportunities Program for STMD.
During the coming year, STMD will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration. It continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology thrust areas. These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration.