Bobby Braun to Join JPL to Head Planetary Exploration Program

Bobby Braun (Credit: CU Boulder)

Former NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun will be re-joining the space agency in January as the leader of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) center’s planetary exploration program.

Braun, who serves as dean of the University of Colorado (UC) Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, will serve as a member of JPL’s leadership team.

In an internal memo, center Director Michael Watkins said Braun’s 30 years of experience with the JPL and NASA planetary missions, including the Mars Pathfinder lander, would be a great asset in implementing a planned overhaul of the lab’s Mars and planetary exploration programs.

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SNC Partners With NASA to Advance Moon, Mars Technology

Dream Chaser lands (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev. October 2, 2019 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, is extending its partnership with NASA to two entry, descent and landing projects designed to improve affordability and safety of current and future missions.  The first will test recoverability of the upper stage of a rocket using a deployable decelerator, and the second involves thermal imaging of SNC’s Dream Chaser® during reentry and landing.

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NASA Inflatable Heat Shield Technology Performs Under Pressure

LOFTID pack and deployment testing started with a load test to verify that the heat shield will perform as expected in flight under real-life conditions. (Credits: NASA)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Testing is well underway as NASA’s LOFTID – short for Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator – prepares to catch a ride on an Atlas V rocket launch in 2022.

LOFTID is a cross-cutting technology designed to help deliver heavy cargos to any planet with an atmosphere.

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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.











Beyond the Metal: Investigating Soft Robots at NASA Langley

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Into the Spiderverse’s newest crew of villains include a brilliant scientist named Doctor Octopus who uses flexible robotic arms to commit her dastardly deeds. Her bionic arms can throw objects, aid her in moving quickly in fight scenes, and a host of other functions. While we can leave the evil geniuses to the movies, two genius interns are investigating soft robotics like the supervillain’s incredible arms for viability beyond our planet at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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Inflatable Heat Shield Project Gets a Spring in its Step

Illustration of Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID). (Credits: NASA)

NORFOLK, Va. (NASA PR) — Testing of a key component of NASA’s Low-earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) is on track, thanks in part to Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia.

LOFTID is a cross-cutting technology designed to enable delivery of heavy cargos to any planet with an atmosphere. In a few years, the project will launch a six-meter inflatable heat shield into low-Earth orbit on an Atlas V rocket and collect data during re-entry.

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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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IG: NASA Needs to Better Document Cost Savings on Services Contracts

NASA needs better methods to track its efforts to minimize costs on the more than $16 billion worth of engineering and technical services the space agency purchases annually, according to a new audit by the Inspector General (IG).

[Full Report — PDF]

“Although NASA has a variety of mechanisms at the Headquarters and Center levels to share lessons learned, many of these are informal, dependent upon personal relationships between Centers, and not focused on sharing information on efficiencies,” the audit said.

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NASA Looking to Tiny Technology for Big Payoffs

A demonstration flight article is wound with carbon nanotube composites. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is advancing technology that could use large amounts of nanoscale materials to launch lighter rockets and spacecraft than ever before. The Super-lightweight Aerospace Composites (SAC) project seeks to scale up the manufacturing and use of high-strength carbon nanotube composite materials.

Carbon nanotubes consist of carbon atoms chemically bound in the shape of cylinders that are less than 1/80,000 the diameter of human hair. At that scale, carbon nanotubes are about 100 times stronger than steel and about eight times lighter.

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NASA Awards Contract for Continued Development of Carbon Nanotube Technology

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Nanocomp Technologies Inc. of Merrimack, New Hampshire, for the continued development of high strength carbon nanotube (CNT) material.

The firm-fixed-price contract allows for the continued improvement of manufacturing high-strength CNT yarn/tape for use in developing CNT composites with strength properties at least double that of carbon fiber composites in use today. The contract also provides for studying commercialization objectives for CNT material as well as expanding manufacturing capabilities to lower production costs of high strength CNT yarn.

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Life at the Lab: Coming in for Landing

Video Caption: Wishing you had a driverless car or plane? NASA Langley is developing navigational radar sensor technology to use during future space missions. The sensors can also help make autonomous vehicles more efficient on Earth.











NASA Goes to Great Lengths to Get Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Measurements

NASA Langley employees assembly flight cable harnesses for Mars 2020 mission. (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are hard at work assembling components for the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) which will collect data during the Mars 2020 mission’s entry through the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

These flight cable harnesses are 30-foot-long groups of electrical wires that will transmit signals for some MEDLI2 sensors. It takes about eight weeks to build and test all of the harnesses. Once complete, they will ship to Lockheed Martin for integration onto the Mars 2020 heat shield.

MEDLI2 will measure pressure, temperature, heat flux and radiation on the capsule that encloses the Mars 2020 rover during Mars atmospheric entry. The data collected will extend the groundbreaking entry data collected by the first MEDLI instrument suite flown aboard the Mars Science Laboratory mission in 2012 and will improve designs of entry systems for future robotic and human missions to Mars, Venus, Titan and the gas giants.

MEDLI2 is a Game Changing Development project led by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate with support from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate. The project is managed at Langley and implemented in partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL manages the Mars 2020 spacecraft development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.











At Langley, Admiration and Gratitude Multiply on Katherine Johnson’s 100th Birthday

Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Reid Conference Center. Honored guests include Katherine G. Johnson and members of her family, Mayor Donnie Tuck, Senator Warner and Governor McAuliffe. Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures,” (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — When Jasmine Byrd started her job at NASA about two years ago, she knew nothing about Katherine Johnson, the mathematician and “human computer” whose achievements helped inspire the book and movie “Hidden Figures.”

At that point, the release of the film was still months away. But excitement was building — particularly at Byrd’s new workplace. She’d arrived at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where Johnson spent her entire, 33-year NACA and NASA career.

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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.