Advanced Robotic Arm Gets a Workout

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — A new robotic arm for assembling spacecraft and exploration platforms in space flexed its muscle in a successful ground demonstration Jan. 19.

The device, called the Tension Actuated in Space MANipulator (TALISMAN) was tested in the Structures and Materials Test Laboratory at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.


NASA Experiments with Kilopower Fission Reactor

Kilopower reactor (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power. A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions.


NASA to Discuss New Space Fission Power System on Thursday

Mars fission power system concept. (Credit: NASA)

LAS VEGAS (NASA PR) — NASA and its partners will host a news conference at noon EST (9 a.m. PST) Thursday, Jan. 18, at the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, to discuss a recent experiment involving a new power source that could provide the safe, efficient and plentiful energy needed for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

Audio of the news conference and presentation slides will stream live on NASA’s website.

Representatives from NASA, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Los Alamos National Laboratory and Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) will discuss and take questions on the Kilopower project, which aims to demonstrate space fission power systems technology that has the potential to enable future crewed surface missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Testing began in November 2017 and is expected to continue through March.

The news conference participants will be:

  • Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate
  • Angela Chambers, manager of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Criticality Safety Program
  • Mark Martinez, president of Mission Support and Test Services, LLC, which manages and operates the Nevada National Security Site for the NNSA
  • Janet Kavandi, director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center
  • Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage
  • Pat McClure, Kilopower project lead at Los Alamos
  • Marc Gibson, Kilopower lead engineer at Glenn Research Center
  • Dave Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos

Members of the public also can ask questions during the briefing on social media using #AskNASA.

Supporting images and video will be available online at:

The Kilopower project is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development program and is led by the agency’s Glenn Research Center, in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Los Alamos, NNSS and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

NASA Awards Contracts for Deep Space Gateway Power Studies

Boeing Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to conduct four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept.

The agency is studying the gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future collaborations. These latest studies will help provide data on commercial capabilities as NASA defines objectives and requirements as well as help reduce risk for a new powerful and efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.


Thruster for Mars Mission Breaks Records

A side shot of the X3 firing at 50 kilowatts. (Credit: NASA)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (University of Michigan PR) — An advanced space engine in the running to propel humans to Mars has broken the records for operating current, power and thrust for a device of its kind, known as a Hall thruster.

The development of the thruster was led by Alec Gallimore, University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering and the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering.


NASA Glenn Tests Thruster Bound for Metal World

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — As NASA looks to explore deeper into our solar system, one of the key areas of interest is studying worlds that can help researchers better understand our solar system and the universe around us. One of the next destinations in this knowledge-gathering campaign is a rare world located in the asteroid belt called Psyche.


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.)

Work on SHIVER Tank for Deep Space Propellant Storage Advances

SHIIVER, a cryogenic test tank developed to evaluate heat intercept concepts, arrived at Marshall on Aug. 10. The tank will receive heat sensors and spray-on foam insulation at Marshall before making its way to Plum Brook Station for further insulation and testing. (Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — A technical challenge that NASA is working to solve is how to maintain very cold liquid propellants to be used as fuel for deep space missions. Heat intercept concepts such as advanced insulation blankets, foam insulation and vapor-based cooling will be evaluated with the Structural Heat Intercept Insulation Vibration Evaluation Rig or SHIIVER, which arrived Aug. 10 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for application of its first round of insulation.


Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests Advanced Electric Propulsion System

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 06, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), successfully conducted a series of hot-fire tests on a Power Processing Unit (PPU) for an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) designed to advance the nation’s commercial space capabilities as well as support NASA’s plans for deep space exploration. The tests were conducted at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.


From 2D to 3D, Space Station Microscope Gets an Upgrade

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, conducts a session with the Preliminary Advanced Colloids Experiment at the Light Microscopy Module in the Fluids Integrated Rack aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — In science, it’s best to have a clean, sharp picture of what you’re studying. Microscopes afford us the opportunity to look at particles that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye, but these particles can sometimes be masked by gravity. That’s right, the same force that keeps your feet firmly planted to the ground also interferes with getting a good look at how things move and interact at the microscopic level.

The Light Microscopy Module (LMM) microscope aboard the International Space Station is an advanced microscope that gives researchers a look at what is happening on a fundamental level without the interference of gravity. NASA will be sending an upgrade to the LMM on the upcoming SpaceX cargo resupply mission that will enable 3D imaging of complex fluid structures and allow for modeling the movement of individual particles at the micron level.


Cygnus Leaves Station, Begins Week-long Secondary Mission

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, Va., 4 June 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Cygnus™ spacecraft  successfully unberthed from the International Space Station, beginning the next phase of its mission before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. The “S.S. John Glenn” will now conduct three secondary payload missions including the Saffire-III fire experiment, deployment of four CubeSats and an experiment to further study spacecraft conditions upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.


Scientists to Study How Fire Burns in Space

Saffire I experiment inside Cygnus. (Credit: NASA)

COLUMBIA, Md., June 2, 2017 (USRA PR) — Shortly after the Cygnus cargo vehicle (which launched in March 2017) undocks from the International Space Station on June 4, 2017, a team of researchers from NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) will conduct the Spacecraft Fire Experiment-III (SAFFIRE III).

SAFFIRE III is the third in a series of six flight experiments to better understand how flames spread in microgravity and increase understanding of how an accidental fire might behave in space. “The SAFFIRE portfolio of experiments is providing the best data yet on how large fires behave in the microgravity environment of space,” said Christopher Pestak, Director of USRA operations at NASA GRC.


SpaceX Dragon to Carry More Than 40 National Laboratory-Sponsored Experiments to ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (CASIS PR) The SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle is slated to launch its 11thcargo resupply mission (CRS-11) to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than June 1, 2017 from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A. Onboard the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will carry more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored experiments.

This mission will showcase the breadth of research possible through the ISS National Laboratory, as experiments range from the life and physical sciences, Earth observation and remote sensing, and a variety of student-led investigations.


Nanotechnology Flight Test: Material Impact on the Future

A Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket with the SubTec-7 payload launches frm NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on May 16, 2017. (Credit: NASA Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Mastering the intricacies of controlling matter at the nanoscale level is part of a revolutionary quest to apply nanotechnology to benefit industrial processes. A key element of that technology is the use of carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are small hollow tubes with diameters of 0.7 to 50 nanometers and lengths generally in the tens of microns. While ultra-small, carbon nanotubes offer big-time attributes.


NASA Explores 4 Technologies for Improved Oxygen Recovery

Spacecraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR) test facility. (Credit: NASA)
Spacecraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR) test facility. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — On long duration deep space missions, providing crew-members with a steady supply of oxygen is a real challenge. Because resupply is not an option and taking huge tanks of oxygen on exploration spacecraft is not practical, oxygen must be recovered from what is produced during normal metabolism.

Astronauts breathe in oxygen and most is turned into carbon dioxide and water vapor. Getting the oxygen from the water is pretty straightforward and can be done with electrolysis alone. The real trick is efficiently getting oxygen from the carbon dioxide.