NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2020 (NASA PR) — To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.” 

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Powerful Thruster Prepared for Planetary Defense Demonstration Mission to Asteroid

The NEXT-C flight thruster is mounted within a thermal shroud in one of NASA Glenn’s vacuum chambers. The thermal shroud subjects the thruster to the extreme thermal environments it has been designed to withstand. (Credits: NASA/Bridget Caswell)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — After undergoing a series of performance and environmental tests, NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C) is being prepared for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission, which will launch next year.

This image shows the NEXT-C flight thruster operating within the vacuum chamber during thermal vacuum testing. Photo credit: NASA. (Credits: NASA)

In the past few months, the thruster, developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and designed and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, was put through vibration, thermal vacuum and performance tests and then integrated with its power processing unit. The environmental testing verified that NEXT-C could withstand the extreme launch vibrations and temperatures of spaceflight.

DART will be the first space mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection by kinetic impact, a technique that could prevent a hazardous asteroid from impacting Earth by changing the motion of the asteroid in space. NEXT-C’s propulsion system will be tested on that mission, along with several other technologies.

The power processing unit of the thruster is removed from another vacuum chamber after successful testing. (Credits: NASA/Bridget Caswell)

When the propulsion system is successfully demonstrated on DART, NEXT-C will be considered on a variety of 10 to 15 year-long, uncrewed missions that could include going to other asteroids, comets or planets such as Venus.

NASA’s New Moon Rover Tested in Lunar Operations Lab

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) engineering model undergoing tests. (Credit: NASA / Bridget Caswell, Alcyon Technical Services)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — An engineering model of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is tested in the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

About the size of a golf cart, VIPER is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s South Pole looking for water ice in the region and for the first time ever, actually sample the water ice at the same pole where the first woman and next man will land in 2024 under the Artemis program.

The large, adjustable soil bin contains lunar simulant and allows engineers to mimic the Moon’s terrain. Engineers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the rover was designed and built, joined the Glenn team to complete the tests.

Test data will be used to evaluate the traction of the vehicle and wheels, determine the power requirements for a variety of maneuvers and compare methods of traversing steep slopes. Respirators are worn by researchers to protect against the airborne silica that is present during testing.  

VIPER is a collaboration within and beyond the agency.  NASA’s  Ames  Research Center in Silicon Valley is managing the project, leading the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations and software.

The rover’s instruments are provided by Ames, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and commercial partner, Honeybee Robotics in  California.  The spacecraft, lander and launch vehicle that will deliver VIPER to the surface of the Moon will be provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, delivering science and technology payloads to and near the Moon.  

Building Solar Panels in Space Might be as Easy as Clicking Print

by Katherine Herrick
NASA Glenn Research Center

CLEVELAND — Imagine you just moved to the surface of the Moon. There is plenty of available real estate, and you pick a nice-looking plot, away from craters and burnt-out volcanoes, for your home. You begin building on the powdery surface, first putting up walls, and then using a device like an inkjet printer to print solar cells that will generate your electricity. Once you finish, you step inside, turn out the lights and close the blinds to block the Sun that won’t set for another 14 Earth days.

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NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

Astrobotic, Blue Origin, ExoTerra, Paragon and SpaceX among contract awardees for advanced technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

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Sierra Nevada Appoints Former Astronaut Janet Kavandi to Run Space Systems

Janet Kavandi (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., September 16, 2019 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global   aerospace and national security contractor owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, announced that former NASA astronaut and Glenn Research Center director, Janet Kavandi, will join SNC as Senior Vice President for the company’s Space Systems business area.

After 25 years with NASA, Kavandi retired this month as director at Glenn, having led the center’s Moon to Mars work. She is joining SNC in a period of growth for the company’s space initiatives and two years before the first of six missions for SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft to service the International Space Station under contract with NASA.

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NASA and Virgin Orbit 3D Print, Test Rocket Combustion Chamber

Engineers test-fire a 3D-printed rocket engine combustion chamber at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA is partnering with Virgin Orbit of Long Beach, California, to deliver advanced engine hardware that employs cutting-edge NASA and commercial additive manufacturing, or 3D-printing, processes. Researchers will continue to explore advanced 3D-printing solutions, introducing even higher-performing alloys and further refining the printing process. (Credits: NASA/Virgin Orbit)

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.

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Lunar Power System Team Wins President’s Award

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — In preparation of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by 2028, NASA is developing new technologies that will let astronauts land, live and explore the surface. In this video, Marc Gibson of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland describes Kilopower, a power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces, including the Moon and Mars.

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NIAC Award: Power for Interstellar Fly-by

Power for interstellar fly-bys. (Credit: Geoffrey Landis)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Geoffrey Landis
NASA Glenn Research Center

Launching ultra-miniature probes to fly past an exoplanet a nearby star using a laser-pushed sail is now being seriously discussed as a mission, primarily by the “Breakthrough Starshot” program. An interstellar probe will require power for both observations and communications when it reaches the target exoplanet system… but the proposed mission gives a mass allocation that is milligrams, far less than the mass of any real-world power system. We propose harvesting power from the motion of the spacecraft as it passes through the target system’s ambient environment.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List











Inspector General: NASA Goddard Lags in Tech Transfer

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is lagging behind three other agency centers when it comes to transferring technology to the private sector, according to a new audit by the Office of Inspector General. [Full Report]

“Goddard…is experiencing poor technology transfer performance outcomes when compared to the other three NASA Centers we reviewed, to include a lower percentage of licenses as well as delays in processing of [New Technology Reports] and patent applications,” the audit said.

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Veteran NASA Astronauts Inducted into US Astronaut Hall of Fame

Former NASA astronauts Jim Buchli and Janet Kavandi are inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Class of 2019 during a ceremony on April 6, 2019, inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. They unveiled their plaques, which will be placed in the Hall of Fame at the visitor complex. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Janet Kavandi, director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, and James Buchli are the latest veteran NASA astronauts to join the ranks of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

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NASA Considers Public-Private Partnerships on Space Communications


NASA is considering the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to expand its space communications network.

“The use of PPPs allow NASA and commercial entities to work as partners (as compared to a typical Government-contractor relationship) to develop and introduce new operational capabilities that NASA user missions might use, by shared investment, standards, and risks,” the agency said in a notice published on the federal acquisitions website.

“These new capabilities may help foster the growth of the commercial satellite communications relay services market (from low Earth orbit to the Moon and beyond) and provide benefits to future NASA missions in alignment with NASA envisioned Next Generation Architecture,” the notice said.

NASA Glenn Research Center is seeking proposals for trade studies and conceptual system designs and descriptions. The objectives include:

  • “Commercial service concepts
    • Determine the architecture and service concepts for optical and RF space services and develop the service management and operations aspects for mission users.
  • “Accommodations of the NASA provided optical payload/terminals
    • Determine the factors to incorporate NASA’s optical technology onto commercial spacecraft and the associated commercial space services.
  • “Public-private partnership for providing and receiving communication services
    • Determine costs, benefits, and terms for the Government and commercial partner with balanced risk. Assess market expectations, non-Government customer aspects, timeline, transition, and cost factors.”











TDM Bridge Builder: Daniel Herman, Solar Electric Propulsion System Lead

Among Herman’s first contributions to the space agency was helping to develop the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion engine, seen here in 2009 in a vacuum test facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He served as life demonstration test lead for the NEXT engine. (Credit: NASA/GRC)

Note: Technology Demonstration Missions “Bridge Builders” are team members at NASA centers and partner organizations who help take various groundbreaking, cutting-edge technologies from concept to flight readiness — bridging the gap to help NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the agency and the aerospace community enable rewarding new missions in space.


CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When it comes to NASA’s Solar Electric Propulsion project, Daniel Herman helps lead the charge.

As an experienced electric propulsion team lead at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, he was a natural choice for the SEP project’s electric propulsion system lead, providing technical oversight for all activities tied to the project — an alternative to using conventional chemical systems to send spacecraft to distant destinations and resupply remote science outposts anywhere in the solar system.

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Demonstration Proves Nuclear Fission System Can Provide Space Exploration Power

Artist’s concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credits: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

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